I just finished watching What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? for the first time (I know, I know, shame on me). It was a great film, but what I liked best was the ending.
Spoiler alert for those of us who have been under rocks since 1962.
Okay, so the best part was the precise cut at the moment the cops run down the beach to check on Blanche. I loved it because the movie ended right before we find out whether Blanche is dead. We see a psychotic Jane spinning and dancing in the crowd, and the crowd moving away, and the cops almost reaching Blanche, then BOOM! It’s over.
Did Blanche die? If so, will Jane be going to prison? When Blanche told Jane that she’d caused her own accident, was Blanche only trying to befriend Jane so Jane would go get help?
I loved it so much because I love complex endings. I love not being told precisely what happened. I love it when the exact ending is left up to my imagination.
It’s something I try to do with my own fiction: take What’s Inside, for example. The story has an ending, in a way, but it’s up to the reader to decide what comes next. Some reviews wanted the story to have been longer, and I get that some readers enjoy complete resolution. But I like leaving an end or two untied.
The flirtation between “finished-enough” to be satisfying and left “unfinished-enough” to let the reader interact with the story is something that excites me as a writer. I want you left curious. I want to encourage you to participate in the story, to think about it long after you’ve put the story down.
It worked in the case of Baby Jane, and I hope it works in my stories, too.