Okay, have finished the five seasons of Chuck...the last episode made me cry! But I love the open-ended strings they left hanging for a future TV movie - or just for my own imagination - to continue their story, giving the characters new adventures. Even Jeffster has a great story arc my mind can play with!
And that, of course, got me to thinking about my own story craft. I was always taught that all plots need to be tied up in the story's resolution. No loose ends.
And Chuck did that. Each of the characters have their happily ever after ending. We know where Casey is going, even if we don't watch him go there. We understand Beckman will keep on keeping on and that the Buy More will always be the Buy More. The lead characters are together, just as they should be, and the secondary characters have pleasant paths for their lives to follow. No loose ends.
The writers of the show give us a bunch of new plot twists that invite speculation. Will Chuck and Sarah give up the spy life forever? Will Devon and Ellie like their new digs? Will Morgan and Alex get married? Viewers can make up their answers to this and dozens of other questions. This is the hallmark of a successful series.
So what does that teach me about storytelling? A great deal.
Leaving the characters in a good place gives closure for those readers who need a sense of finality when the last page is turned. Tie up all the plot lines that have run through the three, four, five (and more!) books. That's important.
But leave room for those readers who like to dream. What happens to Middle Earth now that Aragorn is king? What kind of a dad is Harry Potter? Will Jamie and Clare's grandchildren also be able to travel through time?* Readers who can't shake off the story at the end of the last book don't want to leave the world the author created. They've fallen in love with the people and the places and want more stories set in this world.
From such desires, fan fiction is born. Different authors have different views on fan fic, but the reality is, readers want more stories and, if the author won't (or can't) write them, they'll write their own. Heck, even I started that way. I have a Star Trek fan fic that was a ton of fun to write. The original series had been taken off the air and there were no plans for ever breathing life into it again. The animated series had come and gone but the movie was still years away. I wanted more stories with Kirk and Spock and Scotty and Bones so, since Paramount wouldn't do it...I wrote my own.
But I digress.
The desire to create more stories for characters after that last page is turned.
This is something I need to keep in mind in my own series. I have two of them; Journey to Submission series with Ellora's Cave (although their website doesn't have the books labeled yet**) and the Jack Kariola slaves series (Mystic Shade, author). Because I write BDSM stories, I don't think either of them will get much in the way of fan fiction. But, and this is the part I need to remember, both can let the imagination run wild and invite the readers to add new adventures, new predicaments, new experiences.
I could, however, do much more for each series. Drop little hints and throw down an outside plot line that may (or may not) become important to the characters. Tie up the big plots, yes. But leave some open-ended so the readers can take those tidbits of information and play with them.
I'm working on a new Jack Kariola book now. I will definitely have to keep this in mind!
Lesson learned, Chuck! Lesson learned. :)
*Lord of the Rings series by JRR. Tolkien, Harry Potter series by JK Rowling, Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
** Secret Submission, Submission Revealed, and Services Rendered. The upcoming release, Diamond Submission, is also part of that series