“Wedding items, unused.” Three words. Eighteen letters. A million literary possibilities. Our lives are a lot like the ads you find in the classifieds. We see and hear short snippets of stories, but rarely do we get a beginning, a middle and an end. More often than not, we’re set down right in the middle of the action (in media res for you Latin speakers) and we’re plucked away before we get to the resolution. People come into our lives and disappear again so quickly, we’re only left with an impression of who they were. Storytellers give us something we almost never find in our real lives — closure.
As a writer, my impulse is to finish those unfinished stories. I want to tie up the loose ends, fill in the missing background and imbue seemingly random events with meaning. In a world where things don’t end neatly, writers offer some answers. Things may still end tragically (and if you’re like Camus, events may still be devoid of significance), but for a few brief pages, it is possible to bring order to chaos.
When I see a fragment of larger story, I can’t help but speculate. Whether it’s an impassioned conversation about smoked gouda overheard at a local coffee shop or a classified ad selling wedding items, unused, I try to connect the dots.
I ask “Why?” and a cliffhanger is finally given the satisfaction of reaching “the end.”
— 30 —
I invent lots of endings for unfinished stories on my Twitter feed. If you’d like to join me, my tweeps call me jonnyeberle.