Thursday, May 5, 2011


Symmetry...does it exist in the world as a natural happenstance?  Or is it man-made, created by our minds in a desperate attempt to make sense of our fleeting world?

A friend forwarded this video and it came at a good time.  I am in the middle of a writing project, another novel and well, I've stalled out a bit.  I'm probably about sixty percent through, at a pivotal moment in the story, at the crease dividing the start of the story from the end, at the point where perhaps things should start gettin' all symmetrical.

Aristotle explained it thus:

Now, according to our definition Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is complete, and whole, and of a certain magnitude; for there may be a whole that is wanting in magnitude. A whole is that which has a beginning, a middle, and an end. A beginning is that which does not itself follow anything by causal necessity, but after which something naturally is or comes to be. An end, on the contrary, is that which itself naturally follows some other thing, either by necessity, or as a rule, but has nothing following it. A middle is that which follows something as some other thing follows it. A well constructed plot, therefore, must neither begin nor end at haphazard, but conform to these principles.

(Those inclined to do so, review Poetics here.)

We all know the feeling, when a book starts "tying up loose ends."  There's a pleasant association, some orderly part of ourselves, as readers, that nods in approval.  "Oh yes," we think, "of course she needs to break off the relationship"...or, bringing in our 20th-century psych awareness:  "She needs closure with her mother before this story can end."

But isn't there something mildly exciting about peanut butter without jelly, about a lock without a key?  Can't we gain a unique satisfaction (perhaps a volt to a different part of the brain) from a main character who does something to confound, disappoint or startle?

Thinking about these things and many more as I contemplate the path for my main character, and I'm remembering other literary characters whose choices and situations were unexpected but rewarding, sensible yet provocative. 

"Life is short. From here to that old car you know so well there is a stretch of twenty, twenty-five paces. It is a very short walk. Make those twenty-five steps. Now. Right now. Come just as you are. And we shall live happily ever after."
                                                                                   --Vladimir Nabokov (Lolita)

1 comment:

  1. I don't know if I can handle stories that end badly....meaning, they don't resolve everything. Yes, I like a certain asymetry in decor, things that give a moment's pause, where you say to yourself, "Yes, I see what they're saying here", but if it leaves a person hanging and it ends that way.....hmmmmmmm. Even when a book ends with an unresolved issue, the movie ALWAYS gives the happy-ever-after version.



"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka