The End: Artistic Freedom vs. Reader Expectation

© Feverpitched | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images
© Feverpitched | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

I’ve been looking forward to reading Requiem, the final book in Lauren Oliver‘s Delirium trilogy, but I noticed this week that it’s getting hammered in reviews. Readers are dissatisfied with what they say is a vague ending. A lot of them feel Oliver left too many threads hanging loose.

It brings up an interesting dilemma. How much artistic freedom does an author really have? How much should he or she cater to reader expectations?

As a writer, I understand the need to be true to your characters and your story, but you also don’t want to alienate readers. You want them to be eager to pick up your next book and not hesitate, wondering if you’re going to leave them hanging like you did last time.

I still plan to read Requiem, and I’ll form my own opinion about the ending. I’ll weigh my thoughts against the reader reviews because I think that’s one of the best ways for a writer to learn—by reading and then asking what worked and what didn’t work. Hopefully the process will enable me to make the right decision if I’m ever struggling to find a balance between what I owe my readers and what I owe myself.

What do you think? How much artistic freedom should an author have? What books have left you dissatisfied with the ending?

©2013 Kim Vandel

13 thoughts on “The End: Artistic Freedom vs. Reader Expectation

  1. It is sad that there are “critics”, “reviewers”, etc. about all aspects of our life. When we read the “Bible”, “Harry Potter”, “Da Vinci, et al”, what was our expectation? Is our mind open or narrow to what we desire or expect from the author? The author writes because they have something to say. We the reader are the “critic”. Open that new book with no expectation but to listen. If the interest is gained or lost in the first chapter, read it or leave it and find another book.

  2. I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts on the ending. Did you see the video response Lauren posted on her tumblr? I liked her perspective, but I have to admit that as a reader who’s invested two years worth of time in the series, I will be disappointed if I don’t have story closure. I guess we shall see…

  3. I know, right. Listen to all the disappointed Downton Abbey fans. Sheesh. But, I think there is a tightrope artists walk. The walker has done things to get an audience. If he fails to meet expectations he has set, there will be fewer in the audience the next time. I guess it is up to the artist to set expectations properly.

    1. Seriously. I don’t envy the Downton Abbey writers. I’m not looking forward to walking the tightrope. I’ve never been fond of heights…but hopefully I will have done the work beforehand and made sure the rope – and reader expectations – are properly lined up.

  4. I think it depends on who you’re writing for. If you’re writing for yourself, to tell the story you want to tell, then it really doesn’t matter what the readers think — it’s your story, and the fact that other people are reading it is just a happy coincidence. However, if you’re writing for others, to entertain, then you do have a responsibility to provide a satisfying conclusion for your readers. I, personally, write to entertain — I want others to read and enjoy the stories I’ve created. So, when I *fingers crossed* eventually reach the end of a series, I will try to make the ending as satisfying as possible within the context of the story.

      1. Another alternative I’m considering is just never ending any series I write, and then before I die I’ll appoint a successor to continue the series, and then they’ll appoint a successor before they die, etc. etc. It’s foolproof!

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