Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Great Unknown

If we could board a train into our favorite character's future, would we like what we see?

Do you ever wonder what happens to characters when the final page ends?
Especially characters that you've come to care about. Characters that are among your favorites.
Do you ever spend, like, a lot of time wondering what happens to them?
Because I do, and it kind of unnerves me that I do.
I wonder if couples that I watched grow to love each other over the course of a story are still together. I wonder if they're happy. I wonder if, because they're characters and ultimately *not real*, they get to have what it seems a lot of people don't get: that happily ever after.
No, I don't mean in a riding off into the sunset with singing animals and sunrays from heaven...
I just mean peace. I mean togetherness and loyalty and all the stuff that really, truly matters.
I wonder if characters stay friends, or if they drift apart.
Who's to say?
The author's to say.
But what if the author doesn't give you any clues? What if there is no sequel. What if the author doesn't think that there's such a thing as real, exclusive love?
I used to have this policy where I assigned my own ending to the characters after the 'official' ending. But I'm a simpleton who likes love stories to stay happy and cultivated. Then I started thinking, 'What would the author actually do? Remember, she broke up So-and-So in the companion book. She turned Whosit into a drug addict and Whatsit into a pleasure-seeker...'

See, this is what happens when I ingest too much drama, too much heavy-fiction. I start expecting tragedy and sadness at every turn, for every character. It's like a fiction-themed Worse Case Scenario (and if you're thinking, "what the #@!$&* is she talking about?", I'm thinking specifically about Melina Marchetta's books, particularly Saving Francesca, The Piper's Son, and Jellicoe Road. I love JR, and am currently reading SF, but I think I may have OD'd a little on Marchetta fiction, because I'm too the point now where I expect tragedy and heartache for everyone, around every corner). you think about what happens to your favorite characters? Does the uncertainty ever bother you?

6 shout-outs!:

Stephanie said...

I really like stories that are like time capsules--you get a certain amount of time with the characters, but after the book's over, that's it. No big epilogue, no unexpected sequels, no companion books. I like standalone books because I think, once an author finishes a book, it belongs to the readers and it's up to the readers' imaginations to determine what happens next for the characters. There's nothing that's more of a letdown than when an author writes a sequel to a standalone book and does what you described--messes with the characters and breaks up couples, just to cause drama. Then again, there are plenty of sequels that I think really add to my appreciation of the characters so I suppose it just depends on how good the author is!

Christina T said...

I was just thinking about this a little bit because I finished the Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy. I will not go into details (no spoilers!) but I was thinking about this issue in relation to that series.

My favorite characters of all time are from the Harry Potter series so I was happy with the epilogue and even after that when Jo gave out tidbits about what happened with Luna, etc. that made me happy to feel like things were wrapped up well and Harry is "living" in peace.

I hated how things ended up with Lord of the Rings though. Reading what happens later on it kind of makes it seem like the sacrifices made were not appreciated by later generations.

It isn't just books that have me wondering though. I used to read all the Star Wars fiction about what happened after Return of the Jedi. I loved Timothy Zahn's trilogy but then some of the later books had some really sad storylines so I'm glad I quit reading. Let's pretend the galaxy is also at peace without any new evil Sith Lords in sight. :)

Amelia said...

Good idea, Christina! And high five for quittin' those Expanded Universe books. I can't tell you how many times I read those plots and was like, 'Luke did WHAT?!'

And Jo Rowling is the BEST. She's the de facto standard I look for in book endings. Lol, I wish all authors gave us "happy" glimpses into the lives of the grown-up characters (but if they're not happy, fuggedabadit).

Natalie said...

I'd have to agree...J.K. Rowling did it best! But the answer is yes...I do find myself sometimes wondering about what happened after the final page. I can't believe I'm actually admitting this, but on the rare occasion that I become REALLY obsessed with the book, it leads to the perusing of (mostly very bad) fanfiction. You wouldn't believe what some of those people come up with! It's crazy! Lol.

Savannah said...

I admit I day dream what happens to characters. I always wonder what the future will look like or how I imagine they end up. Also what would happen to them if they took a different road. IDK,I think I'm weird.

Liz said...

Actually, it doesn't bother me. That's sometimes why I like standalone books. I can imagine what I'd like to see happen for the characters afterwards. I tend to be an optimist.

I think that's my problem with series. Sometimes my ideas of what I want for the characters get so specific that I wind up being disappointed by the final installment.

Of course, sometimes it's the opposite. Like with Mockingjay I had no idea where Suzanne Collins was going to take the story, and I wound up loving it. I love it when an author is able to toss me a final installment wherein a.) I still get unexpected twists and b.) the story finishes with the characters in a situation that is both feasible and what I'd hoped for.

Awesome post, Amelia! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

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