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.)