Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The End From the Beginning

We have a tradition on my mother’s central Italian side of the family that says whatever happens in the first twelve days of the New Year is what will happen in each ensuing month. I was quick to point out the fallacy in this superstition, which is that whatever happens the first day of January would need to apply to the remaining month. Yet, the concept of a matter’s end being present in its beginning got me thinking that the end of a story is often derived by or foreshadowed at its start.

Since it’s near the end of the year—and this has been one long year—my mind takes the path of least literary resistance to use, as an example, the first Harry Potter book, where early in the saga we read of Ginny Weasley’s crush on Harry. Six books later the end of the matter is confirmed; yet, the seeds of its fruition were planted at the start.

As writers, we unwind our stories, from flash to full-length novels, creating a trail we ask readers to follow. We ask them to believe what we say of our characters’ past, present and future through backstory, scene and foreshadow as our plots unfold. We want readers to believe us and to forget us as they immerse themselves in a world of our creation, even in the offer of hope for a desired outcome that initially seems impossible.

We do, in a sense, what the prophet Isaiah said that God does. We create a purpose for our stories and a plan to achieve that purpose, and we ask readers to place their confidence in our ability to lead them. It’s not just the foreknowledge of our story’s events that we want people to trust. No. We often write, as William Zinsser said, to learn, to discover our stories and the people in them. Yet, we aim to exert mastery over our creation. We want readers to rely on us as we speak, to the point where they forget that it's we who speak.

Is this arrogance, this apparent reach for the divine? If we aim for omniscience, omnipresence or omnipotence, then yes. But for the writer who aims merely to create a plan and be true to it, to have a purpose and carry it out, to offer the best words in their most suitable form, it’s a creative act, and in this is dignity.

“I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: ‘My plan will take place, and I will do all My will.’” Isaiah 46:10

Blessings and peace to you and yours now and throughout the New Year.

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