Is it bad to end a story with a lot of loose points? Are there some exceptions where some loose points are permitted as long as the main questions are answered? I heard it's bad, but I see a lot of stories with loose points. If your story is complex, isn't it natural to have loose points? And also ending a story with a lot of loose points related to Chekhov's gun? If we need to prevent loose points, do we need to make the story shorter and simpler?


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You can end the story with loose ends as long as the main story arc is fully resolved to a satisfying end. You may leave some unresolved points in case you wish to start a series. You may also leave some open-ended puzzles for the reader to think about.

A bit longer

It is a bulls-eye effect: the closer the loose end is to the core story arc, the more dissatisfying for the reader.

The reader engagement is usually driven by the main story arc. They invest their time with the expectation of a satisfying ending relative to the plot you present to them. The more satisfying the main plot, the more a reader is willing to forgive about not resolving any of the rest.

The above has a corollary that is: some loose ends are expected.

These loose ends can occur for:

  1. characters in the background. E.g. what happened to each and every rescued passengers from Titanic after the accident? Did they recover their assets? How did they cope with the trauma and grief?
  2. overarching themes, which set the basis for a series. E.g. Voldemort takes quite a while to show up and do something in the Harry Potter series.
  3. open ended puzzles left to the reader's imagination. E.g. the fate/purpose of the Arc in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc.
  4. narration devices such as cyclical or near-cyclical plots. In this case the loose end is close enough to the beginning of the story arc for the reader to imagine that it will fall back in the same track. E.g. the structure of the Worm Ouroboros.

It depends. Many successful short stories ("The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe comes to mind) where the ending is technically a cliffhanger, though it still is a satisfying ending. This technique could be scaled up for a novel, although outside of series I've never personal seen it done.

As for Chekhov's Gun, I figure that is much more of a guideline than a hard-and-fast rule. (There aren't many in creative writing!)

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