The Closing moments are necessarily quieter than the climactic scene, but they should be no less emotionally resonant; in fact, the denouement (the final outcome of the main dramatic complication in a literary work) is a moment that looks back to and reminds the reader of the beginning of your novel and what questions were raised there, particularly in terms of the protagonist’s internal motivation. What your character wants personally has been driving the narrative since the first page, even before the external motivation and conflict came along to parallel the personal struggle. With the external question resolved in the climax, what remains is answering the inthrall question and addressing the effect the story has had on the character as a person, thus bringing the character arc, and the book, full circle.
(Joseph Bates, Writing Your Novel from Start to Finish, 2015, page 194.)
In this passage, Mr. Bates points out, in essence, that what a character wants (internally) at the start of her journey, even if she does not realize it, she will strive to achieve throughout her story, through the external events she faces, until the closing moments, at which time she comes full circle, back to the place at which she started, but this time- recognizing, if not yet resolving, her internal desires or struggles.
Similarly, in life, what brings us, as individuals, full circle at the end of a chapter, a season, a year, or a lifetime, is understanding what we want and how important that is, and achieving it, or at least working toward it. How have we changed? How much have we learned? How much have we grown, or on the other hand, remained stagnant? Have the events in our own lives over the past year had a clear, discernible effect on our lives, the same way the events in the fictional stories we write and read impact our protagonists. Are we the same person now, in this year’s closing moments, we were at the beginning of our journey, in the opening moments?
Bates continues ; The way to gauge the significance ( of the effect that changes the protagonist) is by looking at the protagonist at both the beginning and end, and seeing a difference. Be forewarned, however; the change in our fictional protagonists is not always a positive transformation; the characters may also undergo negative change. In Charles Dickens’ Scrooge, Ebenezer Scrooge evolves from a miserable, money-pinching, greedy old man to a kind-hearted and generous person, recognizing who he was, identifying who he wants to be, and choosing to redeem himself. In contrast, in Wuthering Heights, we see Heathcliff change the other way, as he becomes a villain in response to his unrequited love for Catherine and the misguided manner in which he decides to think and behave. He changes, but he never evolves.
Our own change does not necessarily mean we need to achieve perfection. Rather, it means in some way, to some degree, we grew. We evolved. Somewhere along the pages of our life story, we came to identify what we value, and we recognize how important it is to believe in that value, and in ourself, and how to nurture our passion, find our purpose and do everything possible to follow it. We learn that we are the authors of our own life stories. We are the editors, the agents, the publishers, and advocates for our own narrative. Further, we are the protagonist with internal desires and struggles, with our own character arc to process. We are the main character of our life story, and we are the only one in control. Do we follow the direction Ebenezer took, or take the path created by Healthcliff? It is our decision to make.
Even when we are struck by adversity, we are the author in control. As we drive our lives forward, toward achieving happiness and success, it is the failures that take us there. Sometimes, when we get lost, taking occasional detours allows us to get back on track. To find our way. Again, it is within only our own control to decide between giving up, allowing fear to immobilize us, or recognizing failures as stepping stones, rather than see them as heavy weights that can drown us.
Bates says; … failures- particularly our own personal failings- often change our lives with more ferocity than our successes. And then there is the famous quote by Albert Einstein, who said; Adversity introduces a man to himself. We don’t change through adversity itself; we merely learn who we were to begin with, who we are now, and who we can be. It magnifies our own character arc, taking what was always within us, to the forefront.
In Wayne Dyer’s Your Erroneous Zones, he threads the ideas of choice and present-moment living throughout his book. While he discusses various “erroneous zones” or areas in which we are self-destructive, he writes;
Looking at yourself, in depth with an eye toward changing might be something that you
say you are interested in accomplishing, but your behavior speaks otherwise.
Change is tough.
Moreover, to further illustrate this point, Dieter F. Uchdorf said; It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself, that determines how your life’s story will develop. In other words, it is up to us alone to decide which path we follow, or even to forge a brand new path- leaving a trail for others to follow. No one else determines this for us. Robert Frost brilliantly illustrated this in The Road Not Taken;
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
In fiction, our protagonist faces her own setbacks and hardships, through which she loses herself, but ultimately finds herself- we hope. Through out her story, she faces external challenges that inspire internal confrontation, reflection, and eventual resolution, as each external obstacle brings her closer to discovering her true internal values, purpose and character. Therefore, bringing her full circle.
Isn’t this true for the rest of us in our real lives? Aren’t we always on a quest to find our own true purpose in life, to find the true meaning of life, the path that will allow us to become better daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, spouses, parents, friends, neighbors, employees, coworkers, bosses, teachers, citizens, writers, and human beings in general? To just -be better and to make the world in which we live a better place.
This past year is behind us. We are in the closing moments of 2021, and although these moments, for some, may be quieter than the climactic scenes experienced throughout this past year, they are no less emotionally resonant. What path will we take, or forge next year and in the years to come, that will make a difference? So… what effect has our choices had on us as individuals in our own life stories, and for others, and have we brought our own character arc, in our narrative, full circle?
Many thanks to the readers and followers who have read my blogs over the years so far, and supported me in achieving my life- long dream to write and teach. Regardless of, or because of, the adversities each of you might have faced this past year, this past season, this past decade, this past lifetime, or this past whatever, look inside yourselves and you will find your own purpose, strength, love, happiness and peace. I promise you, it is there. It has been there all along. You only need to set out on your own quest to reveal it, and you will come full circle, back home to the place you always belonged.