Apr 20

Q is for questions

Sin #16: Unanswered questions
Plot, just like real life, is complicated at best.
There is no such thing as a simple plot, and if there is…yeesh what a boring book that must be!

Even Spot books like to throw a curveball now and again.

Spot went to the zoo.
Spot sees a tiger. Spot sees a lion. Spot tripped over banged his head and lost all memories of his current life, leaving his family to suffer as he was the main breadwinner. Spot sees a goose. Spot gets his memory back and lives happily ever after.
Sure, most plots start simple but with inevitable conflict the storyline will branch off into several plots, sub-plots and sub-sub-plots each with their own questions, quandaries and queries.
Now, while it might be impossible to answer each and every question raised over ninety thousand words (think how many questions ‘Lost’ didn’t answer!), it is vital that an author answers the main questions established within their novel.
There will be the obvious ones, such as what the hell happened to the MC? – but I guess if you needed to be told that you probably wouldn’t be intelligent enough to operate the internet and therefore wouldn’t be reading this blog – and there are smaller questions such as what happened to secondary characters? Did that subplot ever resolve itself? And just how will Batman escape this time?
Tune in next week to find out…
Joking aside, the ‘tune in next week’ method may be an option if you are writing a sequel or a series of novels. But even then the main plot points must be resolved. No ignoring a character or subplot just because they have ‘done their job’ and explained something or some action that couldn’t be justified within the main body of the novel…in fact if you have scenes like that then maybe you should destroy them. Subplots crammed into a novel are too similar to using a deus ex machina and could seriously damage your work.
A lot of writers choose to tie up any loose ends with an epilogue. Personally I find these rarely work as well as they are supposed too. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes they really do work but I feel if you have that many unanswered questions then a rewrite would be better than having an extra section of the story which feels disconnected and superfluous to the story.
Instead take the time to explain things as the action moves along, justifying actions with well established character traits and motivations, answering questions with suitable and interesting descriptions and realistic dialogue, and most of all using believable plot devices rather than tacking on convenient subplots in order to work around a problem.
I wouldn’t want to end this post leaving questions unanswered, so…did Batman get out of the trap in time?
No…no he didn’t, he died a horrible and slow death. His family has been informed.

3 comments

    • ttofee on April 20, 2011 at 21:19
    • Reply

    Its infuriating to get to the end of a book and have lots of unanswered questions! Lets hope we dont do that 🙂

    • C R Ward on April 21, 2011 at 00:10
    • Reply

    Well said!

    Questions must be answered during the course of the novel and until they are, the novel isn't finished.

    • Ellie on April 21, 2011 at 07:47
    • Reply

    I agree! Novels that don't answer all the questions annoy me and I won't read another by the same author.

    Ellie Garratt

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