It Ends at the Beginning

“Ka is a wheel.” This saying can be found throughout The Dark Tower series written by Stephen King. The saying basically means that everything that goes around comes around. You reap what you sow. If you’ve ever read the full series by King, I’d suggest it, you know that this simple saying has more meaning behind it.

There’s a type of plot that’s pretty similar to this saying. This style is actually very, very old. Like a couple centuries ago. Well, maybe a bit longer than that, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s really ancient. Written at the tale-end of the 8th Century B.C., The Odyssey was written by Homer and is the second-oldest extant work of Western literature. For those Jeopardy fanatics out there, the answer to what is the oldest is “What is the Illiad, Alex.” 

Just so you know, if you win the gameshow because of this answer, I’d like more than just a copy of the home game. To me, I think 10 percent of the overall winnings sounds pretty fair. Checks can be mailed to James Master or made out to cash. I also accept PayPal.

The plot centers on a person, our hero or protagonist, that leaves his/her home in order to accomplish something and when that’s done he/she has to come home.Typically when they come home, if the story is written well, the hero will have changed in some way.

There are so many stories out there that still utilize this type of plot. Not satisfied with that statement? What, you want some proof? Fine, here you go:

The Lord of the Rings (Overall book series): Sure, it took awhile but J.R.R. Tolkien finally got Frodo and Sam to Mordor and tossed that little ring of evil into the lava. Oh, oops, spoiler alert. If you’ve not read or watched it, then I’ll spoil another thing for you: all Sam and Frodo can talk about is returning home to the Shire. Now, that could just be because they were in Mordor which isn’t the typical vacationing spot. I sympathize with Frodo and Sam every time I visit Michigan. And when they do return, they’re more appreciative of the Shire. They’re changed Hobbits that realize that the world is larger than they thought.

Wizard of Oz: “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore Toto.” You know, I identify with Dorothy. Sometimes I’ll be driving with my friends and it’s dark, but since we’re dudes the stereotype is never to admit that we’re lost. You know, that old chestnut. Anyway, when we see a sign for Niles, MI then that’s when I feel lost like Dorothy. I’m not sure if my friends identify with a dog, a heartless tin man, a cowardly lion, and a brainless scarecrow. I just know I’m the Dorothy in the group. Hmm, in retrospect, claiming that I’m a little girl might have been weird. However, she kills witches so there you go. She’s also torn from her home, whisked away by a tornado, survives, kills a witch with her house, and then goes on another quest to kill yet another witch. Why does she do this? Oh that’s right, she wants to return home and face the consequences of Toto chowing down on that lady that looks like the witch that she just killed. With water. Say what you want, Dorothy is the Sam Jackson of 1900.

Taken: Before you stop reading, just go with me here for a second. Imagine you’re a retired CIA agent that used to be really awesome, but then retired so he could try and piece back the family life his old job helped to shatter. Now, his daughter gets kidnapped while backpacking through Europe. Side note, that’s why I don’t go backpacking. I don’t want to be kidnapped and sold to human traffickers. That’s another reason I don’t travel to Michigan. Everybody I know tells me it won’t happen to me, but they don’t know man. They don’t know. Anyhoo, now once that agent learns about his daughter’s disappearance, he has to take matters into his own hands and dust off those “particular set of skills” and return home with his daughter. How she was able to return home without a passport is beyond me though. You know what that agent receives on going home? A hug from his daughter. Everything he ever wanted.

So, if you’re writing a story that has this theme of a hero leaving and then returning back to his/her old life just make sure they learn something and grow as a character. Because you don’t want to have them experience all that pain and suffering without some kind of reward. Like when I last traveled up to Kalamazoo….

I’m not too sure why I’m bashing so hard on Michigan. Maybe’s it’s because I’m sick and tired of hearing Tim Allen talk about how “pure” the state is. If it’s so pure Mr. Allen, then why’s the water like that!?

But in the end, does it matter?

There are certain shows that I could binge watch for days. To name a few: The Office (US Version), Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, but there’s one that’s my go-to favorite, Supernatural. If you’ve never seen the show, it’s about two brothers that save people while hunting monsters. One of the things I like about the show is that it pokes fun at itself at times. There’s an author in the series called Chuck that writes a book series about the brothers. You guessed it, the book series is called Supernatural. During one of the episodes starring Chuck, he talks about writing endings.

“Endings are hard,” Chuck begins. “Any [censored] monkey with a keyboard can poop out a beginning, endings are impossible. You try to tie up every loose end, but you never can. The fans are always gonna [complain]. There’s always gonna be holes. And since since it’s the ending, it’s all supposed to add up to something. I’m telling you, they’re a raging pain in the [censored].”

Obviously, I can’t say all the expletives here so I censored them. But Chuck’s point is still a valid one. Endings are hard and sometimes even impossible. Maybe that’s why Supernatural has been around even before the CW. Seriously look it up, the show’s been running longer than the company has. 

But in the end, it doesn’t even matter.

Sure, I could simply be referencing an ancient lyric from the band Linkin Park simply for nostalgia’s sake. But have you, my loyal readers, ever known me to do that? 

Back to my point, does it matter that all the plot-holes are covered and that all the loose ends are tied? And does the end have to mean something?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: Because literature imitates life. Mimesis is the representation or imitation of the real word. Mimesis comes from the Greek word mimeisthai which means to imitate. In his Physics (350BCE) Aristotle writes that “he techne mimeitai ten physin.” For those that don’t have Google Translate, that phrase means “Art imitates nature.”

If you need another metaphor that’s more from a literature nature, check out Shakespeare’s drama “Hamlet” and what the title character says about the subject: “the purpose of [drama], whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold as ‘there the mirror up to nature.”

Even when you’re reading about a monster, you’re reading about the real life. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein isn’t really about a monster, it’s about a mad scientist trying to conquer nature. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is really about conquering diseases. I once wrote a college paper about Dracula and cholera. It was fascinating, but unfortunately failed to spread.

Sometimes we go through life and things don’t make sense. Those things are the plot holes of our life. Have you ever went through life and finished something, but there were issues that were unresolved? Those are the loose ends that weren’t tied. When my nine-year long marriage ended and the divorce was finalized, I was left with feelings of regret, guilt, and unresolved issues. At the time, I felt like I had reached the end of the book. Now I realize that it was only the end of a chapter.

What is the meaning of Life? That’s the age old question. It’s a question that Humanity will never solve, but will always try to find an answer.

We all try to find out the answer in our own ways. Chemists, theologians, biologists, mathematicians, and other professions try to define and explain life. As writer’s we explain life in our own particular method.

Good authors write what they know. Sometimes that includes endings that don’t make sense. Sometimes that includes an unsatisfactory ending, but it’s the best ending for that particular story. Sometimes you get to the end of the book and only questions remain. Why’d that happen? What ever happened to that character? Will they ever get back together?

Life is messy and doesn’t make sense at times. A good story imitates life. There’s a saying that you should “write what you know.” However, I’d suggest that you don’t write what you know. As a writer, explore what the meaning of life could be, what it means to you, or what you would like it to be. 

That way, in the end, it does really matter.