A good open ending can be a brilliant way to conclude your story. It can create tension that the audience takes with them, allowing your story to marinate in their minds for days, weeks, or years after.
However, not every lack of a substantial ending makes a good open ending. Writers need to remember that open endings are not just an excuse for laziness with story structure. Tough love, baby.
They need to be crafted with just as much skill as any other kind of ending and as any other part of your plot.
So, what makes a good open ending?
Make the options CRYSTAL CLEAR.
An open ending isn’t just random blah. It isn’t just “okay, well, now we have no idea what may happen”. Give the audience possible ideas, preferably two strong ones. Writing an open ending is about opening the possibility of something happening. Something concrete.
It’s about letting the audience know, “maybe this happened, or maybe that did.” It’s about showing two very clear paths for the story to take. And the more this and that differ, the more diametrically opposite they are, the bigger their emotional impact will be.
Example of a good open ending: Inception (2010)
Why is the ending of Christopher Nolan’s Inception so iconic?
It’s not because we’re not sure what happens. It’s because we are left to wonder between two concrete and clear paths: either everything worked out great and Webb is reunited with his kids, or he is trapped in Limbo and everything is lost forever.
Do you see how these are both plausible and believable? Not only that, they each present a crystally clear idea about what happened to Cobb AND they each give their own (again, diametrically opposite) perspectives of the movie’s theme.
In fact, Nolan could have easily decided to make either one of them the ending. But he didn’t, thus creating an even better one. Sure, the audience is free to merely choose one of these options but the doubt remains. Forever.
See how brilliant that is?
What do you think?
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