Thursday, March 15, 2012
Do you ever wonder what happens after the last page of a book? I often find myself wanting to know more about a story than just what the author tells me.

Sometimes that information is available. Some writers offer extras, deleted scenes, and additional back story. But does the author have the right to say what happens outside of what’s published on the page?

JK Rowling is an author who could answer almost any question about the characters she created. She has worked out every detail of her world. She says, “It’s just stuff I need to know… partly for my own pleasure and partly because I like reading a book where I have the sense that the author knows everything. They might not be telling me everything, but you have that confidence that the author really knows everything.”

John Green takes the opposite point of view. When asked what happens to Hazel after The Fault in Our Stars, he answered, “I do not have access to any information outside of that text, because then it would just be me speculating about what might happen, and my speculations are no more valuable or authoritative than anyone else’s. Books belong to their readers! Own it! Make it yours!”

Personally, I like when an author knows more about the story than what’s on the page. It’s how writers like Tolkien achieved such a great illusion of depth.

Kristan and I were discussing this on the way to a WHYA meeting and we came to the conclusion that everyone should have a choice. The author has the choice to offer extra information if they want to. And it’s our choice to listen to what they have to say or to rely completely on our own imaginations. What do you think?


Sara (of the Page Sage) said...

These are two of my favorite authors and while John Green is amazing, I definitely like it that J.K. Rowling has the whole world of HP in her head. It didn't really take anything away from Alaska or TFIOS, though, but I just wish John Green knew what happened to the characters because I still think of them as HIS characters.

Unknown said...

I think I lean more towards The Green on this debate. While my favorite stories are those I can imagine after the last words, I don't necessarily need the author to know that part for me. In fact, I'm not a huge fan of "deleted" scenes or extra chapters sold separately. I just assume those bits exist in the author's imagination or notes. They're not in the story for a reason, maybe?
But movies, that's completely different. I watched all six hours of documentaries on the making of The Lord of the Rings. I'd most definitely watch Sherlock outtakes if they existed. I'm so contradictory!!

Kristan said...

As you and I discussed, I don't think there's a right or wrong. Every author and reader is going to want things their own way. Some readers will defer to authors; some will insist on their own imagination. Some authors will exercise their AUTHORity (see what I did there?) while others (like The Green, hehe, nice one Sarah) will ask readers to take the reins. It's all good.

Personally, I like NOT knowing. I like imagining all the different possibilities myself, and letting each one live for its moment in my mind. Sometimes I feel like I know without a doubt what happened next, and sometimes it's just a bunch of questions that leave me thinking deeply, which is also good.

(What I do NOT like are ridiculous epilogues that ruin the last lines of the "real"/"actual" story. >P)

(Note: Not EVERY epilogue is ridiculous. Just some.)

Kristan said...

Oh, and the second part of what I meant to say was that I like not knowing, but I also like when the author knows and can readily answer if someone asks. I want them to care enough about their characters to keep thinking and dreaming about them.

Phoebe's Sisters said...

If I care deeply for the book and its characters I love to know every little detail and I can never get enough and I absolutely love it when the author (J.K. Rowling in particular) shares things beyond what is published.

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Stephanie, Ingrid, Sarah & Kristan — we read, write, discuss and celebrate Young Adult lit.



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The Bitter Kingdom
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Jellicoe Road
Finnikin of the Rock
Guitar Notes
The Dead-Tossed Waves
The Crown of Embers
New House 5: How A Dorm Becomes A Home
The Fault in Our Stars

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