“And then what happened?”
I get that questions sometimes after people read some of my stories. The end satisfies the narrative, but not necessarily the reader’s curiosity. So, I’m going to answer that question once and for all.
I don’t know.
That’s where the story ends. I have no idea what happens beyond that for the most part.
Someone once asked me if the protagonists in one of my novellas hooked up after their ordeal and I told them no, but the only reason I had an answer to that question was because of the narrative itself. I had never intended on them becoming lovers at any point. Their relationship was purely platonic and surviving the night didn’t change that.
Those questions I can answer. But things like, “Did the leaves come back the next day?” “Did that shadow haunt the brother?” “Where did he go?” I don’t know. That’s where the story ends. I have no more story in my head after that.
This is all in the same vein as “This short story should be a novel” or “This should have a sequel”. While I appreciate the compliment that you love the story so much that you want more of it, I regret to inform you that there is no more. That’s the story in the form that it’s supposed to be. That’s it. That’s all of it. There is no more.
I don’t know what it’s like for other writers, but for me, the story is the story and that’s how the story goes. I’m not much of an overwriter. I don’t tend to have some huge, detailed backstory that I’m not putting in my fiction. I’m not one to do detailed outlines of my characters lives and their likes and dislikes. I don’t have a need to go much beyond whatever the context of the tale I’m telling is unless it pertains directly to the tale.
I start where the story starts and I end where the story ends and I don’t know much more about it than that. That’s all the story there is.
Of course, knowing this doesn’t stop me from wondering “and then what happened” about some of the novels and stories I read. I don’t ask the question out loud, obviously, because I know the answer (or what my answer would be), but I’m still compelled to wonder. And my imagination takes me in all kinds of directions and I come up with all sorts of answers for “and then what happened?”
I think that would be a better go-to answer for me. “I don’t know” is accurate, but invites negativity and accusations (“What do you mean you don’t know?” It’s a story, not an alibi for murder. Calm down). What I should do is answer that question with the question, “What do you think happens?”
Because most likely the person who asked that question, already has an answer in mind.