Challenge Journal 3: Are mysteries supposed to have an ending?

I’m nearing the conclusion here, but this is what you need to know so far.

I used to want to go into journalism, but over the course of four years, I’ve changed my mind about that. For the Capstone project, Ray inspired me to adopt a mosaic style of writing, so that’s exactly what I’ve been doing — writing short narratives about a collection of experiences since I came to Ann Arbor that are meant to give the audience a fragment of an idea of how I viewed journalism at that time.

That style of writing, stretched out over the course of a semester, has been challenging for me. After working at the Daily, I’ve gotten used to turning my writing around pretty quickly. For example, if there’s an event to cover at 3 p.m. on a Friday, it’s due that night. But having an entire semester to work on this has constantly made me wonder if I’m missing opportunities to write more, if I’m writing enough, etc.

But the bigger challenge is that Ray suggested I weave this narrative like a mystery novel, in which the reader never knows for certain that I’ve decided to pursue a career outside of journalism.

Now I’m at the end, and I’m unsure what to do.

I could explicitly give the reader a story about how I’m not going into journalism, and they’ll leave a project with an answer. But if the whole point has been to paint this thing as a mystery, then is that the right approach? And would they be pissed if they got to the end with no real idea of what I chose?

Or I could offer the truth, without explicitly saying journalism isn’t for me. In other words, “I’m going home, making cash, traveling, and have no idea what the plan is for September.” In my mind, that aligns a little better with the theme of the project, but still offers a satisfying conclusion.

And finally, I could leave it ambiguous as hell. That’d make things just about as mysterious as possible. But I don’t know if that fulfills the purpose of this project, because I want an audience to understand how I got to this point, and at least give them a glimpse of where I’m going.

As I try to make a final decision, I’ve thought a lot about articles I’ve written for the Daily — especially longform pieces I’ve done. I think it’s the most comparable to my project, because although those stories are about someone else and not my personal experiences, they are split into various sections from different points in time.

One ends like this:

So we’re back to that word. Crazy, the term most commonly used to describe Chase Winovich.

It’s hard not to almost laugh at it.

Because when you ask him what his teammates mean when they say “Chase is Chase,” even he can’t tell you.

When you ask him why he dressed as himself for Halloween, he’ll say his mom told him the worst thing you can be in life is someone else.

And when you ask him about his current role, he’ll tell you a Bible story about shekels that his friend Macy shared with him at Perry’s Burgers in Ohio.

Above all, though, ask Chase Winovich if it’s flattering that his teammates say he has a screw loose. He’ll refer you again to McGregor, saying you need to be at least slightly crazy toward your craft. Then he’ll give you another quote, one that seems to cut to the core of his being.

“The people that are crazy enough to believe they can change the world are the ones that usually do it,” Winovich says.

Maybe not the world. His world though? Yeah, he’s already done that.

Another like this:

There were moments when Walton wondered how the team could be so hampered by injury, how it could be so unlucky. It had never crossed his mind that the injuries would pile up.

“Like I said, (it) just gives you a different type of perspective on life,” Walton said. “Just makes you appreciate and try and get the most out of every day. That’s pretty much where I’m at right now.

“I just try to attack each and every opportunity I’m given, and at the end of the day, I think the chips will fall where the may, and at the end of the day, I’m going to be where I need to be.”

Now, Walton has a team equipped to make another run in the postseason. He, Irvin and a host of others make up a group without one true star, but with all the necessary ability to succeed.

Maybe more importantly, Walton has one last season to stamp his legacy on this program. And a large part of that will reveal itself in the standard he sets for younger players. One of those players is a freshman point guard named Xavier Simpson. He starred in high school, and now, he’ll be asked to step in and make an immediate impact on the Wolverines.

Perhaps that sounds familiar.

I feel like both give some closure, and I’m wondering if I can pull off the “Ask him” format except flip it onto myself. But would that be as effective as it is when you’re writing about someone else?

I’m open to any answers, and any suggestions.

One thought to “Challenge Journal 3: Are mysteries supposed to have an ending?”

  1. Kevin,

    I’m actually dealing with a similar, yet different, problem. My entire project is solving a mystery, and then I got to the end of the project and I had to admit that I did not solve the mystery. However, I left it ambiguous. The benefit of ending a project vaguely is that the reader is left thinking about where it can go in the future. There is a subliminal “so, what?” that you do not explicitly address. For you, I think you might be leaning towards the honest route. You can say that you have been cashing in checks, writing, but are confused about your future. It’s honest, and I think that adds a nice dimension. While I have not seen the rest of your project, I also think that the ambiguous route might be interesting to add if you do not feel comfortable releasing this information because of your content. I don’t know, I think you should go with whatever fits in with the tone and what you would want your readers to be left thinking.

    Jenn

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