After watching the controversial ending of The Sopranos, I started reading some viewer responses. And I started noticing a funny word.


A lot of fans cried out that after following the show for 8 years through good and bad, they deserved some closure.

Which lead to me to ask an interesting question... Do fans deserve anything of the sort?

What makes a fan deserve anything?

Well, let's see, if there is no fan, there is no market for the book or TV show and then the TV would go away. It would disappear. And there would be no closure that way, but no one would complain.

At the same time without a writer's ideas, the fans wouldn't have a show to cry out for. It is up to the writer to decide the ending and the fan to enjoy it.

The writing is often on the wall for a fan long in advance. The fan can usually decide much before the ending whether or not they should change the channel, turn off the TV, or walk out of the movie. The writer is there to entertain them. If anything, the writer deserves the fan, not the fan deserving the show.

So, what makes a fan think they deserve anything?

And do you think fans deserve anything other than the writer's best work?

Do fans deserve closure?

Is all the whining about The Sopranos applicable in other areas?

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I felt like I had closure. Tony (and his audience) continue to wait the apocalypse. We are all compromised by the narrative. I don't get why this isn't enough. But I do like ambiguity so maybe it's me.
I became sick of The Simpsons around the same time, possibly earlier. Between cable TV and Free-To-Air, it felt like the show was on 24/7. For the series to keep going dilutes the quality of the earlier seasons, which I still laugh at when I accidentally watch them while having dinner.
If I recall correctly, the Simpsons were cleaned up for popular consumption because the TV industry decided that the original version was too offensive to a middle class audience. The creator of The Simpsons was (is?) a satirist, and satire is often misunderstood. (As in the case of Swift's "A Modest Proposal" which outraged people because it suggested that the Irish famine could be cured by letting the Irish breed children for consumption -- recipe included).

As to the question: I have a problem with an author setting out to guarantee himself as many sales (fans) as possible.
I heard Robert Crais speak once a few years ago, well before HOSTAGE became a movie.

He talked at length about why, even though there have been offers, he would never sell the TV/movie rights to the Elvis Cole books.

He said, "I have a covenant with the readers."

The rest is paraphrased from a faulty memory: Readers expect Elvis and Joe Pike to be a certain way, and I do not want to disappoint those who have been loyal to me by having Hollywood mess up the characters.

To me, that implied he felt an obligation of some sort to his fans, something which wasn't surprising in his case. Afterwards I talked to him for a few minutes and found him to be one of the nicest, most charming, and genuine people I had ever met.
Right, so let's talk about this in wider terms that just The Sopranos... do we as writers owe our fans anything? (Just so you know, I don't necessarily agree with my post, but I do want to see opinions)
Hmmm. I'm not writing to make lots of money and be a big success (cue hysterical laughter here) but I do care about how a reader might respond to what I'm trying to do, whether or not there will BE readers. When you tell a story, you're ... telling it, right? Not just talking randomly to yourself, but to some hypothetical listener who hasn't heard this one yet. You shape it, you fix the things that don't seem to be working, you try to reveal things in a certain order and build in some anticipation. If it's just for you ... why are you bothering? You know how it ends! Okay, sometimes you don't, but you know a lot more than the hypothetical person you're bearing in mind when you decide to toss that bit and use this instead.

At the point where I imagine someone reading it, which is always, then I owe them as good a story as I can tell.

Now - I'm using the word "reader" instead of "fan" and I suspect there's a difference. If you're important enough to have fans, you've probably exploited their interest and catered to it to get more of them, and then those people may feel a sense of entitlement that is different than if they just pick up a book and read a story. It's more of a mass experience, and as a popular artifact of culture the ownership is less singular and clear-cut (except in the legal sense).
How can you satisfy twelve million people? You can only be true to your notion of the story. I think Chase's notion was that Tony would survive, that we are all culpable. Can you blame him for not writing an easy out? Few novels have this sort of expectation. You read a novel in a few hours, not over seven years. I think Chase did the best thing he could for his audience by allowing them to write their own ending, by allowing them to sit in that diner and watch the door, even if Tony wasn't worried.
I agree with Patti. Nothing is going to satisfy everyone. The best a writer can do is deliver on the general expectations set up on the show itself. I'm separating these source expectations from secondhand expectations set up by the promo department, critics, bloggers, etc.

Any type of writing has to respect its audience--not cater to, not disregard, but respect. I think the Sopranos writers did that based on the positive response I've heard.
Rule #1: Entertain.

I'm not curing cancer, or even painting the Sistine Chapel. I'm writing stories to entertain people for a very short time. If I leave them feeling betrayed at the end, I've failed.

Build to a climax, then give them some sort of closure and satisfaction. It's a simple formula, sort of a contract in genre fiction. It's what the reader (and the agent, and the editor...) expects. If you leave the audience frustrated, they're not likely to come back for more.
Thank you, Margot. What a nice thing to say!
I slipped into a hole a few years ago (working on my manuscript). I haven't watched much television and truthfully, I don't miss it.

As far as readership, I'm just starting to get feedback to my book. Gee wouldn't it be nice to get rich but the reality is that I write because I love it. My initial goal was to write something others would enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed creating it. So for me, the greatest payback is when I hear someone tell me they stayed up until three in the morning reading because they couldn't put the book down. Music to my ears! It confirms that I've fulfilled my goal. I'm happy/the reader's happy. That's my definition of closure. :)


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