BLAISE PASCAL once observed “the last thing one settles in writing a book is what one should put in first.” In other words, writing a novel is the opposite of life. Or better put, good fiction is written like life in reverse.
Steven James, thriller writer par excellence, says this is the reason he never outlines his story. Ponder the concept yes, flesh out where he wants the story to end up, no doubt. But always be prepared for it to end up in places he never expected.
“if you know the ending of a story, you’ll know the beginning, but if you know the beginning, you won’t necessarily know the ending.”
Weaving a powerful story is what I loved best as a child – backward engineering. Give me a manual on how to design and build a clock and my eyes glazed over. Give me a clock or better yet, let me find a clock I wasn’t supposed to tinker with and watch my eyes blaze as I tore it apart. The only thing hotter was my butt when my father caught me. But discovery always carries with it a price.
Unfortunately, life does not work like a good seat of the pants suspense novel. Nor does it play out like the perfect outline. We start out with great promise, sure of what the ending will be. But more often than not, the story we write with our lives ends up as what is often called these days, a mashup. If only we knew with certainty how that last page will be written and could backward engineer everything before that.
Or maybe not!
Did life make it to this point like I thought it would when pen first went to paper? Will it conclude with a most perfect ending? “No” on the first count and “who knows” on the second. But for me, there is an epilogue that was settled long before this story called life began—
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.