An Ode to Margaret Atwood and Dimitris Melicertes

There are various ways to end a story (and the chances are that the audience have expectations of how they think it will end). When I read Melicertes’s post ‘A Touching Story’, I noticed that he gave the reader an unexpected ending. Plus, in Margaret Atwood’s ‘Happy Endings’, John and Mary go through various endings. Asides from romance being the common theme, both indicate that endings aren’t always fixed.

First, let’s set the scene for a story:

Katherine found a pair of underwear on her bed that didn’t look like hers. She also found a suspicious email which read:

For goodness sake
U can’t be serious
Can’t you see,
K is wrong?

Meet at
Eldon Street.

Ok, so this is quite an obvious example; it’s quite cliched and hammy with blatant references. We’re fairly sure we know what is going on with Katherine’s husband. But imagine if it ended like this:

She confronted her husband, Stephen, about the cryptic email and underwear. He told her that it came in through his spam inbox, and that he’d bought the underwear for her.

‘So what does K stand for then?’

‘K is algebra.’

This is plausible, I suppose. But it’s not the ending we were led to believe, is it? Arguably, the twist in this story might be a surprise and therefore make it more interesting (I’m aware that it’s such as short story that we can’t tell what went on in between). But, generally speaking, it’s usually a good idea to give the reader what they expected. So how many ways could this have ended?

A. Stephen was seeing another woman behind Katherine’s back.

B. Katherine was paranoid.

C. (At a stretch) the whole thing was a dream.

If we had more information, we could possibly have sub-categories. But, I suppose there’s really only two ways this could have ended; Stephen was either guilty or he wasn’t. The moral? Perhaps it’s the middle of the story where we have room for variation?

Until next time,


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