f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: "Of Course!"--Surprise and Inevitability

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

"Of Course!"--Surprise and Inevitability

Deborah wins today's bonus points, which can be saved and traded in for the acclaim of your peers, for her comment on the post on endings.

(BTW: Joe at Word Foundry took another pass at the topic and it's got some good thoughts on "twists.")

Anyway, back to Deborah's thoughts, they echo something I think I've heard before. Or I'm just experiencing an awful case of deja vu. Anyway, the premise is that the best endings are paradoxical--being at once "surprising" and yet "inevitable." To me, great books end with you saying, "Of course!" but only after not having a clue what was around the bend.

The surprise comes from the final culimination of your characters as people and some last response or wrap-up as they face whatever it is they've been up against. The inevitabilty comes from remaining true to those characters all the way through. They can change, but it needs to feel real to your readers.

Joseph Heller's Something Happened stands as my primary "Of course!"-book. It's got a pretty shocking ending--the "something" that happened--that really stunned me my first time through.

I think great literature ends with paradox, because paradox is perhaps the primary realm of human experience. The Christian faith is rife with it--both on the sin side and the grace side. And it's something we chafe at all the time. It's the bit we're always trying to spit, trying to turn things into one or another, frustrated that two, apparent, contradictions are existing at the same time. Fine literature always gets to the heart of the human life and so it's no surprise that it does so by revelling in a mystery on the way there.