Today, I got an email from an old student.
She asked me how to finish her play. She told me what she wanted to happen, and then she told me what had happened when she went about writing it all down.
She had wanted the good brother to win in the war, or at least die honorably, proving that goodness conquers evil.
Unfortunately, when she wrote it, the good brother was killed by the bad brother with no recourse.
She'd been racking her brain all weekend, trying to figure out how to make this death okay. She came up with some flim-flam ideas concerning saving orphans, and finally she came to me.
I told her that sometimes bad things happen, and she needed to help her audience reconcile that fact.
It's a problem in both life and in fiction that I also have had a hard time swallowing. It's hard not to think about morality when you're neck-deep in reading Les Mis, but it's also something that keeps hitting my fender as I try to get through life. A good friend at the age of twenty-six, one of the kindest people I've ever known, died of cancer in a matter of months. There was no justice following, they were just forgotten by some and mourned by others, and the world kept plodding on.
A friend's whole family wiped out in a highway accident, one of them being an eleven-year-old girl. They went to court, but that didn't bring anyone back.
And then this past weekend, one of the brides in my wedding group came home from her honeymoon and contracted meningitis. She was dead within hours, and her new husband is trying to wrap his brain around that one.
Injustice and death usually hits the good forces in life, and to pretend in fiction that they don't is doing our readers a disservice.
It's something that I am trying to balance in my own project. One of the reasons I started writing this book is because of the end of Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay. Katniss ends her world on such a low, nihilistic note, that I wanted to rebut it as best as I could. Yes, people war with each other, yes, there will always be buttheads in the world, but isn't there some good somewhere?
Can't we hope that we aren't seeing the whole picture? Can't we still believe that things will work out? And if we can't, then what?
My student has struck a nerve in the literary universe, has asked a question that people have been poking for years like a fascinating but painful mouth sore.
I told her I didn't have the answer, but she should push herself to make her ending fantastic.
What is this?
Dawson is an editor and writer and MFA student at Stonecoast. She writes stuff.