Dialectic Deconstructed

So, I’ve been given two conflicting pieces of advice when it comes to writing. One says I should know how a story is going to end before I start to write it. The other says that I should examine a topic from every perspective I can think of and come to a conclusion as a result of that exploration.

Of course the first is advice for writing a story and the second for writing an essay. Most of my blog posts are essays. When I venture into the realm of fiction in this blog it is often in the guise of character sketches or micro fiction. Both of these genres are more forgiving to the writer that ignores the advice to know the ending before you start.

But having given it some thought, maybe the advice isn’t as contradictory as I first thought. If you don’t have a question you are trying to answer, you will never come to the end of an essay. On the other hand, if you are rigidly inflexible about how a story is going to unfold and where it is going to end up you may dismiss the better ending that occurs to you as you write.

It is clear that a writer needs boundaries in order to give structure to their writing. The types of boundaries and how many there are will vary from writer to writer and project to project. But they are necessary for any piece to have cohesion and movement toward the finish.

Along the way, there should be some kind of tension, either conflict or contradictory points of view that are explored and eventually resolved. There should be a sense of flow. Each idea is examined, compared to other ideas, and a place for it is found, either in the discard heap or in a niche where it relates to the other ideas that you decide to keep.

Ideas evolve by being challenged and examined in many different contexts and compared with many competing ideas. Thus what seems obviously true today may seem utter nonsense in light of new developments in the future. But that is exactly why it is good to write essays, and fiction for that matter.

Fiction gives us a context within which we allow ourselves to ask what if outside the boundaries of supposedly known facts. It has often lead authors to postulate new theories that were later embraced by the more conservative scientific community as new evidence was discovered which cast doubt on earlier assertions of fact.

A scientist must have an open mind. It seems there are a number of scientists who reject new ideas simply because it threatens their authority. They have asserted things as facts that if found to be false would embarrass them and call into question their abilities.

I say good. They need to be challenged. They should objectively analyze all evidence, even if it contradicts their sacred cows. There should be a class in humility required before you are awarded an advanced degree.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.