• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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There’s More Than One Answer to These Questions


Ambiguity is one thing, confusion is another. When do you leave the reader in a state of heightened awareness to the possibilities and when do they turn back a few pages to see if they missed something? While we’re here, how much ambiguity can people take. I find very little. Open ended endings are like…Last night I went to a movie and there were all kinds of hints about who was going to end with whom and how, but when it was all over I didn’t know and I didn’t care. That’s bad. Ambiguity should be delicious, not maddening. The writer must be clear especially about ambiguity, ambivalence, uncertainty, discomfort, sadness, despair, confusion, and love.

Are we clear?

9 Responses

  1. amen sister, what do they say? either piss or get off the pot.

  2. Personally, I enjoy the suspense of not knowing how things will play out. Maybe I’m missing the point, but if it’s too easy to predict, then it bores me. A good example, in my opinion, of love stories that let you wonder throughout the story but end with a satisfying outcome are Jane Austen’s books. But I’m guessing you’re talking about books that don’t really have a solid ending, right?

  3. Then there’s the other side of it. What’s hard is knowing how much or how little. You don’t want to leave them scratching their heads (as you point out – looking for what they missed) or being so obvious, halfway through the reader knows and still doesn’t care.

  4. Crystal.As a reader, I do not like it when I have to look back to clarify. Writing, I reread/rewrite, and am chagrined when I think “What the hell? That doesn’t make any sense.”

    In short fiction, though, there’s not much time or room to wander, a mixed blessing, for sure.

    Now it’s off to Cedar Key to see friends and make new stories. There are empty islands, and we will fill them. I’m excited- between 30 and 50 small boats, some built by the owners, with wind, water, and sun.

    Also, there will be rum with the sunsets.

  5. The hints have to be large enough to stick to the wall and the answers have to frame them, not paint over them.

  6. We are clear.

    Earlier this week I was working on a story that was pretty straightforward. Plenty of details. Plenty of inertia, too. Not the inertia of a body in motion, but the inertia of a body at rest. Or brought to a stop. So I thought, Hey, why don’t I delete every other sentence and see what happens? So I did that. What happened was I got a story that has mystery and internal motion. It wasn’t a clean operation, deleting every other sentence. There were some wounds that had to be sutured. Does the end result work? Hard to say, since I’m still too close to it. But it works better than the longer version, which, though short enough, was long enough to have grown tedious.

  7. Yes, a character can be conflicted, but the author needs a single mindedness of purpose. I’m currently reading “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wo” by Junot Diaz (100 +- pages to go) and I’ve felt confused at times. It’s great storytelling at a rapid fire pace, but at times I feel lost when I shouldn’t be. And I hate the footnotes — rather than embellish the story, they sometimes distract from the narrative. It’s a challenge.

  8. The art is knowing what to disclose, how much, and when, as the story unfolds. Particularly hard in nonfiction, because the ending is probably already out there. To create suspense the writer has to assume the reader is traveling along with the story anew, or at least learning something along the way.

  9. I agree about the open ended endings. A TV series that will have a next season is one thing, but when I go to the movies and they leave me hanging in suspense…fuck off with that. Books are the same for me: Beginning, middle, ending. Tell me a story. Don’t be lazy. Don’t leave me hanging so you can make me think. What makes you think I don’t know how to think? Because I bought your book?

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