It occurred to me again just recently that much of the time, when I'm putting together a story, what matters most to me is how the ending resonates emotionally with the audience. When you're done, what feeling does it leave you with? The storyline, the plot, is just a way to get to that feeling, and so any number of possible storylines that could bring us to that feeling are valid considerations.
The new wrinkle I'm pondering with this is when I have a story that could have one of a number of different emotional arcs and targets. It could end on this note, or it could end on that note. Which one seems best?
This sort of play — I do want to emphasize that particular word — is powerful, because it liberates an author from feeling obliged to start and end with the same emotional note all throughout the creation of the work. For some time now — years, I think — I've been mulling a story called Shunga-Satori, about a triangle of tensions between three artists. Originally, the emotional "flavor" of the story was something pretty apocalyptic, but recently I stepped back and asked myself whether or not it had to be that way. Was there not some other emotional arc-and-target for the story that might serve it better, bring out more what I had intended for it? Maybe it works better when it's wistful, not broiling?
I didn't have a definitive answer, because the story is still too protean for me to know such things. But it was a tremendous boon to give myself permission to mess around with the idea all the more freely and see what answers presented themselves.
Nobody has an obligation to write a story any particular way, but they do have an obligation to know the consequences of what any particular approach will yield. The more conscious you are of those consequences, the easier it is to make the choices that complement what you want from the thing in question: tears, nostalgia, clenched fists. Whatever's needed most.