A couple of posts ago, I talked about how All questions don’t have to be answered.
This can be tricky to carry off, and I definitely don’t have all the answers. But, in thinking about it since I wrote the post, I’ve had a few thoughts that might be useful.
First off, I am leaving out the question of serial fiction, where there is always the possibility that questions which aren’t answered today may be answered tomorrow (and that will only take you so far anyway).
So, here’s two thoughts:
Insert the question into the story.
I’ve done this twice (at least), where the question is asked in the text and a decision is made not to answer it.
(This can end up as “lampshading,” of course, where you deliberately point out a hole in your plot, rather than trying to hide it, thereby — if successful — getting points for humor and self-awareness. I love this concept, mostly because of the scene in the last Avengers movie where Hawkeye says, “The city is flying, we’re fighting an army of robots, and I have a bow and arrow. None of this makes any sense.” Well, yeah. But I’m talking about something different — something that is more satisfying in the long run.)
Here are two examples of what I’m talking about;
1) In A Sane Woman, there’s a character named Nicky. We — the readers — know that’s not her real name, and we know she’s attached herself to our main characters for reasons of her own (which are never revealed). In the big “gather the suspects” scene at the end. when the detective reveals all the secrets, one of the characters demands that Nicky reveal who she is and why she’s there.
Sarah, who is Nicky’s lover, puts her hand over Nicky’s mouth and says simply, “Not necessary.”
That’s all she says, but the question is dropped. This is because — in the eyes of the other characters and (I hope) the readers — Sarah has the authority to dismiss the question. She has taken Nicky into her heart and her bed, so she is taking the biggest risk. If she’s okay with not knowing…
2) Then there’s the Golden. The Golden have appeared in three of my stories, and I have never explained them. They are, quite possibly, aliens, but maybe they’re something else. I haven’t said, and I’m pretty sure I won’t. Nobody has complained, and some readers have said they’re a real high point in my writing.
I think of them as my Tom Bombadil. 🙂
(Of course, one reason I may not explain them is that I have no idea. With “Nicky,” I know everything about her — her real name, her family, her goals, her motivations, and so on. With the Golden, no clue.)
My model for this sort of thing has always been a character from the TV show Twin Peaks (Nadine Hurley), who at one point got hit on the head and lost her memory — and gained superhuman strength. Her strength was never explained, but Twin Peaks obviously had only a tenuous connection to the real world to begin with, so it was fine.
Plus it was fun. 🙂
There is no answer, but there is a point
Another way to do it is to make the lack of resolution the point. This makes me think of two movies: Clouds of Sils Maria and Limbo. The former has a major plot element which is never explained. The latter has, in conventional trends, no ending at all — it just stops.
As I wrote about in my review, I think that was the point — but there was certainly a lot of conversation (and quite a bit of grumbling) when people were leaving the theater. You can also look at Lost Highway, or Blow-up, or Mulholland Drive (though I have theories about two of those films…).
So, yes, we do keep coming back to David Lynch.