Order and Illumination

Today I read an e-mail from someone lamenting the end of a TV series. She said something about a few things being left dangling by the series’ cancellation, and I thought, “That’s just like real life.” As we all know, things end without resolution all the time in the real life.

That, however, is why I dislike it happening in fiction. It’s like fiction whose point seems to be “Life sucks, then you die.” If I want either one demonstrated, there are plenty of real life examples I can find, thankyouverymuch. So what do I want from my fiction, if I don’t want it to be exactly like real life? Presumably I want it to have some resemblance, right?

On some level, I’m thinking, “Well, yeah, of course.” There’s no ‘of course’ about it — it’s just one of those assumptions one makes without realizing one’s made it until it’s called into question. I want a certain level of tidiness — I write that and cringe, because fiction gets slammed for being tidy. I get the sense that admitting this makes me very low-brow indeed, and on some level I’m enough of a snob to be bothered by that. (I’m way too concerned with what people think — I’ve known that for a long time.)

But maybe it’s that I want a pattern. Patterns are neat, even when they’re complex. A work of fiction is a made object; a life is a cat herd on the move. With fiction, you can illuminate something of life through the pattern you make, some insight or idea that gets lost in the noise of everyday living. (Fiction has changed my perspective over and over and over again, and I firmly believe that a great deal of my mental health can be traced back to the normality shown in the books I read as a kid. I wasn’t exposed to just one reality.)

So maybe that’s why I want it to be patterned: for that illumination.

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