In the preface to his book Jerusalem, Simon Sebag Montefiore states, “I have tried to avoid teleology – writing history as if every event were inevitable.”
My second novel-in-progress deals with the life of a historic character. Under the form that I’ve given it, it is essentially historical fiction. Montefiore’s callout was an epiphany for me. It is precisely the concern I’ve been struggling with – ensuring that at no point in my story does the narrative seem to anticipate a particular outcome or be aware, even subconsciously, of what comes next.
Isn’t this the concern of every writer of fiction? The story must not seem canned. It must not seem preconceived. The story must seem to be unfolding organically, containing nothing preset – nothing engineered.
This is difficult. It is difficult because we writers of fiction become convinced. We become very, very sure of the plot of our story (even (especially?) when it’s not based on history). And while we build our story toward the plot turn that we’ve conceived, the rules of good character demand that we not create androids but that we allow characters to appear to walk of their own free will toward the cliff.
To know the ending is a curse, but it’s the price the story-teller pays to occupy his office.