Path to Story, Chapter 32: Endings Again

Endings can be elusive. Maybe you’ve run out of time, or perhaps your story has too many loose ends and you just can’t find a conclusion, or maybe you’ve become attached to your story and you’re just not ready to let it go, endings can be like the carrot on the end of a stick and you find yourself doomed to keep walking never able to enjoy it.

My previous attempt to discuss endings was tragic and almost half-hearted, which usually makes for terrible endings let alone shallow posts. I couldn’t stop writing and then posted it before I really recognized what I did. I actually lost some sleep over it. There is so much more to think about in regards to creating an appropriate ending for our tales. Answering questions like, ‘what is the point?’ or ‘why are you even talking?’ can make us feel naked when we don’t have an answer.

Again I’ll point to religion to help flush the concept out: Jesus forever changed our ending by giving us salvation. Because of the love that was shown us on the cross, we have the hope of a better ending than eternal suffering. With Him, our conclusion is eternal life in His presence of love. Revelation chapter 21 gives us a great picture of the ending God has in store for those who believe.

Verse 3-4: And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Now that’s an ending worth believing in! Because of it people through the ages have endured much suffering, pain, and persecution.

Now to a much lesser degree, and in an attempt to address the issues mentioned in the intro of this post- in the stories I make up for my kids the standard ending I employ is that of good triumphing over evil. Again I would point to Jesus as the anchor for this approach. It gives hope and courage when the brokenness of this world rises up. There is something about the order of it that connects with us deeply.

Running out of time can make for some hilarious last minute decisions, but as long as I stick to the ‘good triumphs over evil’ order, my kids are happy. If not, like when I just kill everyone, they’ll again let me know by shouting, “NOOOOOOOO!!” When the issue is loose ends, it’s a good opportunity to employ chapters. Tying each one can be its own chapter. But if you’ve become attached to your story, then it’s time to write it down. It’ll be the next bestseller!

Yes, endings can be elusive like that carrot, and sometimes you have to ignore it and eat grass instead. Unless your kids are shouting at you to change your ending, I’d say you’re good. Don’t let any failures stop you, let them teach you. When we do that, we equip our children in how to deal with and learn from their own failures, and that right there is a pretty awesome ending.

Path to Story, Chapter 31: Endings

I know I haven’t specifically mentioned beginnings or plot twists, but for some reason, it seems appropriate to me to talk about endings first. For any readers who can’t handle the disorder, use the famous “Once upon a time…” phrase for your beginnings. It’s genius and can fit any direction you may want to go with the stories you tell your kids.

For plot-twists think of the opposite ends of a magnet and their reaction to another magnet. Flip whatever you are doing and go an opposite route. If your story is focused on the dragon who has been terrorizing the town as the bad guy, flip it to the mouse who lives in the dragon’s cave and is the real instigator. Of course, if you do this all the time it loses its twist effect.

Endings are an interesting thing to think about. Like when we consider taking a vacation, we are already at our favorite destination in our minds. We may not even want to think about the journey or the process it took to get there. So skip it! We are at the spot you set out for, what does it look like? Why did you come? What was the point? These kinds of questions can lead to various stories, but what do you want your kids to walk away with? Like a special Christmas present your story bought and wrapped for them, is it ‘character’, ‘integrity’, or my personal favorite, ‘discernment’?

Sometimes I occasionally give a quick false ending to get my kids’ attention or to get them to behave if they’ve started acting up. For example, I’ll wrap up a story with: “Then everybody died.” Done, quick and simple. My kids so far have responded with a unanimous, “NOOOOOOO!!” Then you are in a position to ransom the story and make your parental demands. I’m just being funny when I do this and they know it, but it works!

So endings have multiple uses depending on ‘why’ you started and ‘where’ you are going with it. I was just reminded to think about where I want to be in 5 years by a job search engine. Where do you want to be by the end of your story? I look for Jesus to be at the end of my life’s story welcoming me home.

Whatever they end up being, make your endings something worth your kids’ attention.

Path to Story, Chapter 30: Make the Mundane Adventurous

Homework can be tiresome, and Mathematics can be at the top of the charts of being tasteless and boring. In Chapter 14, I tried to describe how ‘changing the story’ can change a simple assignment of drawing rectangles into a desperate attempt to save kittens. This time however it was no easy assignment. I’ve tried to explain to my kids that every video game is based on math: A bad guy has 50 points and you have a gun that shoots 10, how many shots does it take to beat him? They understood, but staring at a sheet of equations seems far removed from a screenshot of their favorite game.

Fractions were the subject of the day, and learning how to add them was the assignment. I tried teaching them the concepts, but I only got blank stares, and blank stares have again become a sign to me to ‘change the story’.

My daughter occasionally talks about wanting to become a detective so I used that as the backdrop. My kids became the agents of the Triplet Detective Agency! The first job was to find the lowest common denominator or LCD. Determining it was the clue that busted the case wide open. They have already learned their multiples, so locating the lowest one shared by the denominators was usually pretty quick. It was like finding the culprits’ fingerprints and tracking them down to their home/hideout.

Converting the first fraction to the LCD was like entering the front door, but the perp was running out the back! Quickly converting the other/remaining fraction/s captured him. However, if you’ve ever seen Scooby-Doo you know that a case was never solved unless they checked to see if the villain was wearing a mask. After adding the fractions, the question of, “Can you reduce it?” gave a good tug to make sure. And after everything was verified it was time for the catch-phrase, “Take ‘em away boys!” My kids would then make the siren sound and move on to the next case.

Long division was another one I employed story to explain. It was military combat based with a headquarters (quotient) that gave orders to the troops (divisor) who moved out to defeat the enemy (dividend). Yes, I probably taught it incorrectly, but my kids got the right answers! And when it came time to work on fractions, they’d cheer and get right to it.

I know I’m just beginning to explore what can be accomplished through story. Its use isn’t limited to authors, teachers, or preachers; parents also have this tool and can utilize it to create almost whatever they want for their families. It can make even the mundane adventurous.

Path to Story Ch. 29: Belief and Doubt, the Origins of Storytelling

As time progresses and your proficiency at storytelling improves, you may wonder how this profession began. How is it so powerful? Why do the hearts of mankind become so engrossed in what is beyond our senses? More along the lines of dreams, stories can persuade and inform as well as deceive. So what is the essence of where imagination and emotion collide with our sense of reason? How is storytelling even possible?

Storytelling is religion, and at the core of each of the major religions of the world lies a story that tells why we are here and what this life is for. Most of them are stories that recognize this life and world are broken and point to a salvation that is earned by good works. Christianity stands as the only story where Someone else earned our salvation for us and offers it to those who believe.

The origins of storytelling told to us in the Bible hail all the way back to the Beginning. In the early chapters of Genesis, we witness a cosmological war between two storytellers that forever changed the fate of mankind and the entire world.  The First Storyteller told stories that created life and brought peace that was fulfilled in intimacy with the first audience of earth, man. His story required only one thing from that audience: obedience, and for a time there was peace.

Rebellion came in the form of a serpent who told a different tale with a different purpose than that of life and peace. A toxic and flaccid storyteller, the Serpent told one that promised much but gave nothing. The Serpent’s story spoke doubt into the minds of man and stole that peace, breaking the order God had made. By giving rise to doubt, it revealed the only weakness we ever had, and now we deal with those competing stories every day.

Looking at the history of storytellers throughout the Bible can be pretty depressing.  The first storytellers of man used story to try to hide from responsibility.  We were already trying to create with our words a reality that would shield us from wrath.  I include the rest of us with them because we inherited from them the rewards of such a story, and like them, we all have listened to that life stealing story of the Serpent.

However, the First Storyteller was not finished with His tale, and it was through this weakness that the depths of His love came to light. For the love of God spoke of another story, a story that reached further in and revealed that though the Serpent’s story exposed our weakness, God’s love through His Son Jesus used it to bring an even greater and eternal life for those who believe. Through Jesus, we have a story of divine love that redeems us and gives us the best of all endings.

Belief and Doubt still stand as the two opposing forces of mankind. They provide the essence and create the landscape where imagination and emotion collide with reason. As you create stories for your children there is no better backdrop than the rescue story of Christ. It gives hope and value to this life that forever lifts us from the consequences of the tale of the Serpent.