Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Dark and Stormy Night

The effective ending to a story has often been thought to be a scene in which one or more characters are seen walking away from a resolution in which enough elements are tidied up to approximate closure. 

This is nonsense; we are led to see closure as a winning condition. Through countless repetitions, we see closure as anything less messy than before we began. Take what you can get, and be thankful. Enjoy the crumbs from the tables of the Fates or Powers That Be.

In such endings, the real winner has less to do with the characters and their goals than the culture in which the story was told. Stories with such endings are propaganda.

Such stories often score well with readers until they have a few moments to consider the implications, at which an important dynamic emerges. This dynamic has a binary, the one you favor most being the inevitability of the reader turning to the outlier, which is the noir, we've-been-outnumbered ending and its appropriate, there-has-to-be-a-better way approach.  

The dynamic you favor least is the resolve of the reader to stop reading altogether or set the story aside at the first hint of the denouement being in place like the prearranged dominoes, stacked to fall in a row after the first one has been toppled.

First and foremost, you want readers to continue reading, story after story, until they begin to get the idea: Nice guys don't always finish, much less do they finish last. There is often some positive closure from walking away from a toxic situation before thinking, as the habitual gambler, that salvation and redemption exist in that one last throw of the dice or turn of the wheel.

But as well, nice guys carry something away after the story is concluded, some form of recognition, awareness, or stature, all based on their understanding that the deck was stacked from the get-go. Those payoffs are truer wins; they allow us to see how we can gamble for achievement of ability, understanding, and a philosophy such as humor that will allow us a greater connection with Self.

Story, as we understand it and use it, is the dramatization of a stacked deck, a rigged system, a program in which the outcome is other than what we planned. Story requires a stacked deck because any Reality worth its status of Reality owns the house odds. 

Most of us know that and have already articulated some personal philosophy about our dealings with Reality. We understand that betting with the house may prolong the playing session beyond our expectations, but sooner or later, the house rules will leave us nothing but the takeaway of thinking playing safe gave us a better possibility.

Story, particularly noir story, is our chance to recognize the house odds on our own terms, allow us to understand what it is about the various games of chance that intrigue us, and how to laugh at the results.

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