Michaeline: The Beginning is the Ending of Something

A small lizard curled into a circle against a clear sky, held by a human.

Ouroborus cataphractus, by Handré Basson, via Wikimedia Commons.

We talk about starting a story with an inciting incident, and it should be an exciting time. Something changes; something is new. As someone says (many attribute it to John Gardner), there are basically two story beginnings in the world: someone takes a trip, or someone new comes to town.

It’s an opening up of possibilities. It’s also a slamming of doors. Options are cut out of the picture by whatever happens in the beginning. One of my favorite examples of this is MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead and Unwed. By the end of the first chapter, she’s dead, and that’s just the beginning of her trials and tribulations. A lot of her options in her living world are now slammed shut.

And this is a good thing, right? Where would we be if Frodo Baggins stayed home? What kind of story would we have if Rene Belloq had said, “Indiana Jones, we make a good collaboration. Let us share the treasure!” What kind of happy ending could have resulted if Puss In Boots’ owner lived another 10 years?

I’m in a melancholy place this week. My daughter is finishing her compulsory education this week, and will move out next week to attend high school in the next town. And fifth anniversary of the March 11 Tohoku Earthquake was Friday. The news has been full of sad stories, of lost potential and endings that were far too permanent.

But if we look around, there are new beginnings. The days are warmer, the pussy willows are blooming, and out of the darkness of winter, we start to move into the sun. It’s a good time to start those journeys, and invite new people into our lives.

 

(Man, that’s a bit of a downer post. Here, have a cookie. Debussy’s “Salut Printemps” — or as we sang it in choir, “We sing to spring, season of youth. God gives to all the fields a bright crown. The ardent sap flows out!” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wr_1Z7W88sA Vox Femina, Los Angeles.)

5 thoughts on “Michaeline: The Beginning is the Ending of Something

  1. It’s a new beginning for your daughter, Michaeline, and for you, too. Here’s hoping for an early spring and lots of sunshine to get your ardent sap flowing 🙂 .

    Now, back to the beginning of my WIP, which falls squarely into the camp of Someone New Comes to Town.

  2. Here’s another cookie: the young musicians of the New England Conservatory playing Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring live. Turn it up nice and loud!

    • What a dramatic beginning! It seems to go directly opposite to the received wisdom I’ve gotten from beginnings, which is “start ’em with a bang!” For me, it was amazing to see this big bassoon start out with a quiet, quiet little doodle. But, that is the way spring starts. We don’t seem to get fanfare until 3:20, which is 10 percent into the beginning of the piece! (-: It’s like a Heyer, isn’t it?

  3. Ah, beginnings: your daughter’s going away to school is a grand beginning for her, and for you, too. A new chapter in your lives! As for me, an early reader just said the beginning of my WIP has no story. Must cogitate. And tonight, we set the clocks ahead, which means we “lose” an hour of sleep. Spring has arrived!

    Thanks for the inspirational spring music, Jilly!

    • How do you feel about it, though? Did it start where it has to begin? Well, early drafts are like that, aren’t they. I’m trying very hard not to worry about it and find out what the middle is on my current short story. Then I can fix the beginning and the ending.

      (-: GMTA. Our UK readers may want to know it’s Daylight Savings Time in the US as of March 13. The UK doesn’t switch over to summertime until the last weekend of March, IIRC. No changes in Japan; just dawn happening at increasingly early hours until it’s 3 a.m. and bright enough to read by.

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