This last couple of weeks I keep comparing to living in a chaos whirlwind. The odd thing is, I’m starting to see that when the wind finally dies down and leaves calm in it’s wake, there will be more order than when it began.
Years ago when we would play games as a family, we referred to my son as the random chance element. He wasn’t yet reading, but really wanted to play, so we let him join in. During games like Robo Rally, where you ‘program’ moves four steps ahead, we taught him to put his move cards face down and reveal in his turn. It was a lot of fun, since you never knew what his little robot character was going to do. In other games, it meant he was somewhere out in deep left field picking dandelions, metaphorically. The game changes when you can no longer predict some sort of logical progression to the other player’s thought process.
That’s sort of what life is like. You can plan, project, game out various cases that are foreseeable. What you can’t do is predict the chaos whirlwind. That element of unexpected chance that comes out of left field and blindsides you. It’s not always bad, but it is always difficult to cope with. The human brain likes ‘normal’ and ‘boring’ most of the time. We may think we want adventure, but really it’s the idea of it, and only in the confines of our carefully gamed-out scenarios with expected outcomes. How many extreme sport participants really expect to die, after all, and yet that’s a logical outcome to their actions?
Translating this to fiction is a lot more difficult. I look back at the past month and know that if I were to put it into a story as part of the plotline, readers would be disgusted with me. It doesn’t make sense, they’d complain. And too much deus ex machina. And what about the loose ends? There are so many loose ends.
I don’t know about the loose ends, yet. Life is a tapestry in progress. It’s only in storytelling that you get to see them all trimmed up and tucked away neatly out of sight while the main characters go on happily ever after. It’s only in fiction we can demand this – and we do demand it, perhaps because life is so much chaos it’s comforting to read about things proceeding in a logical, orderly fashion. I can look ahead in my life, and see various branching paths that lay before me, all unknowing which one will be the path I actually walk – it’s not the same as the path you choose.
That, I can write into fiction without my readers complaining I didn’t foreshadow it. A character whose plans were tending in one direction, suddenly having to take a left turn and head for Albuquerque when obstacles arise on his planned path. That, people enjoy. Having a thread pulled out of the tapestry and leaving a weird pucker and a giant loose end? Readers don’t like that.
But I have a boy to waken. His game of life is still in the first turns, and today his move is school, new friends, and possibly a study date at the library. The chaos whirlwind is passing from us, and in the wake I am struggling to maintain routines, consistency, and support. Perhaps that would work better in writing a story – the aftermath of chaos.