Wicked Wednesday- The Unexplained

Jessie: In New Hampshire, felling thankful for wool socks!

As we continue to discuss The Unexplained this month, I thought I’d turn the discussion to books. Do you like a bit of “woo” in the novels you read or write? What about books that end without tying up all the loose ends or those that leave grey areas? Do you like that sort of ending or loathe it? Have you ever written an ending that leaves dangling threads?

Liz: Love this question! And I definitely love woo in books I read as well as write. I am a fan of grey areas for sure – in my Full Moon Mysteries, I’ve had a thread that I’ve been pulling through the first three novels and only revealing pieces at the end of the first and second book. I suspect I’ll tie it up fully at the end of the third, but I’m not sure yet!

Julie: I don’t mind a little woo. I haven’t added it yet, but am playing with that. As for grey areas–it depends what they are. If they feel like the author left them for a reason, I’m good. If I feel like it was neglected narrative, I’m not as fond.

Edith/Maddie: I love Liz’s new Full Moon mysteries. That kind of woo I can live with, as well as Gigi Pandian’s Accidental Alchemist series and the Low Country Mysteries by Susan M. Boyer, which has the protagonist’s dead friend from high school popping up in the back seat of her car or from behind the couch. Like Julie, for me grey areas are all right if it’s an allusion to something I think the author will address in a future book, but not if it’s just bad writing.

Sherry: I never think I like woo in my books, but over the weekend I read Abby Cooper Psychic Eye the first book in Victoria Laurie’s Psychic Eye mysteries. I loved it! I also love Esme Addison’s Enchanted Bay mysteries featuring a magical healer descended from a mermaid. The second book A Hex for Danger released in July. And of course I love Liz’s new series. I like the main plot of a book to be tied up, but don’t mind some gray areas with subplots. And yes, I’ve left some danglers in my own books.

Jessie: I love woo in novels and films. I adore reading it and also writing it. My Sugar Grove and Change of Fortune series both feature quite a bit of it. Grey areas in terms of ambiguity about whodunnit is an entirely different matter. I am happy for there to be unexplained phenomena but not to have unexplained criminality. I don’t mind it if the guilty are not prosecuted if there is a good reason for subversion but as a reader, or writer, I want the tale told to the audience if not the authorities.

Barb: I would say I don’t like woo–but then I would tell you I love time travel stories in any form, Harry Potter, Douglas Adams, especially the Dirk Gently books, Jasper Fforde, especially the Thursday Next series and on and on. All I can conclude is I’m not very self-aware about my reading habits. As for resolution in mysteries, I don’t like books that feel sloppy or unfinished. But I am perfectly content, in fact I like, books that leave the reader with lingering questions at the end, the kind you turn over in your own mind, wonder about, discuss with a partner or friend. I really like books that live on in the mind long after the last page is turned.

Readers, do you like novels that end with some uncertainty or do you like everything to be neatly sewn up as you close the book?

20 Thoughts

  1. I like when the ending keeps you guessing and waiting for the next book to come out. Not too big of a tease. It makes me want to be the first in line to get the new book so I can find out what happens next.

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  2. It would depend on who much was left unanswered and how well written it was. If it’s part of a series and there is a common thread through the whole series, then each book tells part of the story and you expect to be left with a bit not told. That being said it would be an underlying thread and not the meat of the present story. You expect some things to be left open. However, I have read books where it seems more to be chopped off mid-story with no solution at all until you read the next book. Those I do not care for at all. In fact, after it happening instead of making me want to read the next book, it has me marking that author off my reading list.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

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  3. This is a tricky question. I’m okay with more open-ended endings in short stories, where the reader is left to wonder “what comes next.” But for a novel, that main story question needs to be answered. Maybe the villain doesn’t come to justice (noir) or at least not in the way I’d expect, but I want that question wrapped. I’m okay with gray areas when it comes to subplots – basically, the less important the question to the main narrative arc, the more okay I am with the gray.

    But some questions left unanswered too long (“will they, won’t they” is one) will turn me off eventually.

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  4. Barb, I also love the Dirk Gently series, and Jasper Fforde (especially Thursday Next).

    I don’t mind some dangling threads as long as the main story problem is complete. And I don’t mind a bit of “woo” as long as it’s not used as an easy out… but I really like puzzle solving.

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  5. Please wrap up the story for me! Trying to get me to read the next book in the series by not explaining or ending the first book is a recipe for me not to read any more books by that author. A little woo is OK, but I like to be able to figure out the reasons for the mystery. Also, horror and over the top gore get a pass from me every time!

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    1. I agree that the woo should not make the mystery not one of fair play for the reader. I want to be able to solve it alongside the sleuth even without psychic powers of my own!

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  6. I love all the authors Barb mentioned for the same reason. I like some woo in books, but not if it’s used instead of real mystery solving. I like the fun kind of woo, but, like Judy, skip the horror and gore. I recently finished a book where two mysteries needed to be solved. One was, the other was just ignored. Made me very angry at the author and I will not read any more of the series.

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  7. I read very few books with woo in them and prefer that they don’t creep into the books I read. And I think a mystery should wrap everything up nice and neat at the end.

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  8. If I am reading a series, there can be some elements left without closure as long as the big plot line of the book has been completed. Thank you for sharing.

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