I’ve just finished reading a novel. There are other things I could have been doing, but I was almost at the end of the story and it compelled me to pick it up again. I want to talk about the feelings it engendered, because it’s always amazes me that a story created by someone else’s head, hand, and heart can affect me so deeply. So let me try to put some of this into words:
When I finished the story and turned the last page, I felt as if I had disappeared into the story, been swallowed up by it, and was returning from a long journey that had taken me someplace out of time. I had to reassemble myself and remember who I was, because I had forgotten myself.
When I finished the last page, I felt a sense of completion, a feeling of rightness about the way the story ended. It didn’t have a clear-cut conclusion: the ending was more ambiguous than definitive, but the ending seemed right — it pointed both back to the story’s beginning and to the future. It felt satisfying: There were things for me to ponder and I could imagine how the story might move forward in time. But I could also see why the author had chosen to end it that way. Part of me longed to have the story all tied up neatly, but another part of me realized that that was a bit too tidy and that the story was better suited to the ending it was given.
When I finished the story, I felt sad that it had ended, but also happy that the main character had landed in a place that seemed right for him. I had grown to like him, I was fond of him, I wanted his life to turn out well, I wanted him to be happy. In my head, I know he doesn’t exist — he’s just a figment of the author’s imagination — but in my heart I felt some of his longing and pain and confusion; this made us kindred spirits.
When I finished the story, I also had a frisson of pleasure, knowing that I’ll be thinking of the story in the future, revisiting it, trying to see how some pieces of it fit together, seeing if I can resolve to my own satisfaction some of the sad and mysterious things it hinted at. The story is a rich mine of meaning I know I’ll be returning to again.
Amazing, isn’t it, the power a strong story, well crafted and well-told, can have on us long after we read that last page and put it down? It stays with us like a song with a haunting melody. What a gift to be able to write stories that captivate readers! What a worthy art we are heir to! Let’s remember this as we all write on.