Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Life as a Novel

I like to think of life as a novel.  You write it, in a way, as you would a novel.  It has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  It's full of wacky characters, some of whom are so unique that if you wrote them into actual fiction no one would find them believable.  You choose whether to be the protagonist of your own life, or to stand by as a supplementary character while somebody else commands the stage and directs the course of the story.  You can be the hero or the villain, or merely a sidekick or flunky.  You may create an outline, but more often than not, the plot changes as the characters grow and change.  (At least, this regularly happens to me.  I do know some people who keep strictly to their outlines, but my characters nearly always change their minds about what they want to do at the last moment without consulting me.  And they are generally right.)

As in a novel, there are things that might happen, things that perhaps should have happened, things that you regret, but the trick is to make what does happen the best, the most satisfying it can be, even if, or especially if, it pulls at the heartstrings a little.

Most importantly, I think, you choose how the novel is written.  The same basic plot can be interpreted in so many different way.  It is because of the genius of Charles Dickens that the end of A Tale of Two Cities is a triumphant one.  Had he written it differently but kept the basic story the same, Sidney's death could have been a pointless thing, one more pointless tragedy in a particularly messy time in human history.  As it is, it is one of the most triumphant moments in literature, which actually makes it more heartbreaking.

Just a thought.

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