The following is an imaginary exchange...
Jon Zech climbed down from the mare he had ridden to check the herd in the north pasture and handed it off to one of the boys. I watched him saunter to the campfire. He bent over and picked up an old can which he would use as a cup and poured himself coffee. Before sitting down, he stirred the fire and added a log. I watched him for a moment, leaning back in the hammock and smelling coconut.
"When I was a kid, I used to think a story had to have an ending, or a twist. It had to have the reader throw hands into the air and leave them speechless," I said.
"That's the 'Twilight Zone' syndrome," he responded. Jon, who couldn't play a violin to save his life, began to tune one, plucking the strings and wincing with each untrue note.
"I loved those stories. You remember how some stories had the last line italicized in some of the magazines. You know, like: ....and then he realized he wasn't looking at a mirror!!!!"
Jon laughed. "Yeah."
"Now I think the ending should just be a logical point. It should give the reader closure, or resolve the issue or conflict one way or another."
"Oh, I don't know. I think there are some stories that don't have natural endings. Some stories are snapshots. The point is to illustrate character or theme, not necessarily resolve a plot or conflict."
A shooting star passed above.
"I don't hold to that sort of writing. I think a story needs to have a story. Not just be a jumble of events or things...not just stroke the writer. You might as well call it poetry."
Jon shook his head. "Well some writers write for different reasons. Not everyone writes to try and get published in Playboy."
"Now you're just talking crazy," I said. "Look, I'm just saying that an ending should have something behind it. I think some writers are just in a hurry to get things over with, or some have an idea, but they have no idea how to finish things up. I always like to start with some sense of beginning, middle and end when I write."
"I know some people who just like to start writing and see where the creative writing process takes them."
"How many times have you seen a story ruined because the ending just sort of came out of nowhere or because the writing just trickled into nothing?"
"I've seen it," he said.
I didn't say anything else for the rest of the night. A coyote howled and Jon threw the violin onto the fire. Jim finally came riding in, but by then we were too tired to care.