A very random, frustrating and enlightening conversation:
It all started with an innocuous remark about an upcoming movie. I said I would not sit through the end because it was just wrong. The immediate retort being that I could not question the validity or the correctness of the same, because the entire story was created by one person, and that person alone has the right to decide upon an ending. There are various levels on which I disagree with this statement. And I hope to deal with at least some of them coherently below. Luck to me, then.
...It is a Story.
All stories are told, whether in ink or blood, through tears or laughter, briefly or in great detail. But a story can never be told in wholeness, totality. Not a story about a number of people. For, even if you describe all their deeds and actions, you can't keep an eye on each and every one of them at every single point through your story. It'd be hard enough to do so if it were one single character whose life and adventures you were following. But, to imagine you can do that for thousands is just being hopeful. Hopelessly so.
Here, one might say that since the characters and plot line were created inside a certain individual's head, only that individual has the power and knowledge to dictate their actions and deeds, ultimately deciding their fates. Yes, but only up until the time that the said story stays inside that particular person's head. The moment it's let out, escapes, it mixes with the outside world, or the 'real world' to which the author herself belongs. And, the author is undeniably like the God of the created universe, creating the characters and their world. But, do we really believe that each and every one of our actions has been pre-ordained and decided? And that we are all fated to our ends? That, nothing we really do matters at all, for if it "wasn't meant to be", it won't?
(And, even scarier, that none of it is decided? That your life is just one side character in God's universe and he doesn't even know what he'll do with you yet? That, if he's in a bad mood, or if his girlfriend bugs him enough, he'll kill you in a car accident right after you get a promotion and have a baby?)
Parents are more reasonable than that. I suppose they would have made a better example too. For, after all, characters are just like children. They're never really yours. Once you bring them into existence, let them interact with the World, they're their own people, and though they will do what you've taught them to do, they will also do things that they've learnt when you weren't watching.
If a mother of two children wrote a story about her 18 year old kids, do you really believe that everything that is mentioned in her tale is really all that would have happened? Would she not modify certain parts so that the World doesn't judge her own "creations" too harshly? And, more importantly, don't you think there would be things that she doesn't even know about? Let alone the multitude of things that she suspects, hopes for, and sees in her children.
The problem is simply this; when you're writing a story, there's every possibility that you've gotten something wrong. In writing literature, more specifically of the narrative-fiction kind, there are various forms of classification, one of the primary being the distinction between 1) Building characters and having events befall them, describing their interactions and 2) Deciding on a tale that must be told, and working in characters that seem to fit. All stories are undoubtedly a mix of the two. Good stories result from a good mix. Like rum and coke, it really is too subjective to break down further. But, I digress.
The point being, stories are not just created out of thin air. You must first create/possess a world with an existing-workable framework of rules. You must have characters that behave in character, as far as a real person would. Because, whether imagined, dreamt up, thought of or compiled, a character is an individual. One that is thought of is one that does not exist in the World of the author, but that doesn't mean that he doesn't exist at all. With the hundreds of permutations and combinations available from something as innocent as a three-digit number, there are infinite possibilities that the human gene-pool *shall* one day (if already hasn't) result in such a person. And on a much lower probability scale, that the world around him as imagined by the author will exist. Kind of like the monkeys with typewriters writing Shakespeare, you may argue. But the conditions include infinite time. And while we may not have enough of the same (nor do the monkeys) to ever test that theory adequately, the Universe has more than enough time, place and scope to have every possible World already in existence. Just because we are not aware of it, doesn't change the fact that we are not the only existence in the Universe, let alone the only Universe in existence.
The point is, once a character is created, it is created. After that, as the writer, you are bound to try and represent that character and frame reactions and interactions according to what the said character would have done. If you've ever tried writing about somebody real before, or even a character that resembles someone you know, you'll know the feeling I speak of. It's the "If Xyz was faced by this, what would he do?" And obviously, you can never know for sure. Not in real life, and not in the story. Sure, the author may know best how he would react if the ironing-maid burns his favorite sweater, or what he would do/feel when he loses his job, or maybe even his thoughts on a date with an attractive woman, but, when the same character is faced with dilemmas with far-reaching, wide and over-arcing repercussions, not even the character himself can be certain of what he will do. Sure, the author can exercise discretion whether he will commit suicide or turn into an alcoholic, but here, the story will always come foremost. No matter what principles and rules govern a single character, for the author, the plot is what must come together. Loose ends have to be tied. And that doesn't happen in real life.
So, maybe, I phrased it incorrectly. Maybe, I should have said, if the creator of a Universe says that is how it would be, I politely disagree. I believe that if those people had really existed, and lived, and gone through the events that you say they did, they wouldn't end up like you say they will. In fact, I believe that if (when?) they ever do come into existence (or already are so), then that is not how their story would end. I, as an individual myself, who doesn't have to bother with the tale and the proper ending and the pressure to not leave anything unfinished, may have only followed the development of a character or two, paying special intense attention to the personalities they are supposed to be, and the unmentioned reasons for their behaviors.
To go back to the example of the mother with the two 18 year old boys, in her story, she may speak of this one night that she had gone out to a friend's, returning home earlier than expected only to find son A asleep in bed much before his bedtime, with the sheets already soaking in water, while disheveled Son B explained in needless detail the circumstances in which his brother decided to go to sleep so early. Two weeks later, when she talks of the missing bottles of Wine and A's growing anti-social behavior, you might make the connection, but just because she's lived with them and knows them doesn't mean she can predict, or even guess at, their actions successfully. Not all the time. Not when she has to think about (and keep an eye on) B, her husband, their pet dog, the family business. Now imagine if she had to decide what each of them would do in every single waking moment as well. No matter how good, kind or persuasive she may be, if something goes too fundamentally against B's character, such as being told to kill A for being a good-for-nothing alcoholic, B won't do it. He can't. And she can scream and demand and believe whatever she wants. But, there are certain things your character won't allow you to do, no matter how much someone wants you to. And years later, if she says B did kill A, even though it was she who really ended up doing it, her words won't become true. Not merely because she wanted it to happen. Not because it would end "right". And, not even if it were truly her belief that's that what should have happened and did indeed happen.
Because, the truth is truth. And, it's above our wants and desires and hopes and beliefs. It's true because it happens. And I may be wrong. She may be wrong. Every single person in the world who has ever though of this story may be wrong. But, she doesn't get to be right merely because she thought of them before someone else did. And she doesn't get to be right simply because she created them. That's all I want to say, really. And, I know it seems like I took this too personally, but you know what, it wasn't a perfect Universe, but, I've found something there that makes me smile, and laugh, and grin and it's just too right to be deemed wrong. By anybody. It isn't even for me. But something like that, if it exists, well, I'd rather have my memory of this whole obsession wiped clean without hesitation than have *their* world destroyed because someone couldn't believe. And you all know how important my memories are to me. It's only because there's nothing in this Universe, or any Universe for that matter, that matters more than the truth. Not to me. And you can't just let someone decide what that is. You can rest in the knowledge that the World I obsess over doesn't really exist. But, we are just a story to someone, you know. And that's the most we can hope to be, when this is all over. They're already there. What gives any of us the right to decide their endings? We can only weigh, calculate, predict, hope and dream. And believe, of course. But, those are individual options. And no one should have beliefs shoved down their throats. No matter which God wills it so.
He was pleading with her now, the nerve. Her eyes narrowed even as he continued to speak, his own burning brighter with every small step he took in her direction. It was just wrong. It was the last chance either of them had, and she wasn't supposed to be here. She was supposed to tell him what she had come here to say, burn with the fierceness of his cruel, taunting words and then leave when the daggers turned into ice, confident in her ability to walk away. And, he was enraged; she could feel it in the way his presence seemed to fill the room, in the way his jaw clenched, so painfully that, for a second, she had to fight the urge to run to him and apologize, beg forgiveness for whatever had caused him to be so angry with her.. Until she remembered what she had come to say.
Except, something was wrong.
She couldn't move away, couldn't avert her gaze, couldn't leave, and she didn't know what to do with the way he allowed his words to caress her, promise her, reassure her.. just as he had done countless number of times before. Never with words, though. That wasn't allowed for him. Not by either of them. Her throat constricted as she realized what that meant. He already knew..
But, she still couldn't leave. Not when his eyes darkened as he spoke, cajoling her exhausted mind to remember what they had never really acknowledged. He was breaking their rules, and she was watching, mesmerized, even as their binds on him strengthened and loosened, the restraints digging deeper and deeper into his very being. And she watched him, until she was certain that he would not refrain, would not relent. And that is when she knew; They were already caged. Always had been. Except theirs was meant to keep the world out. And she couldn't leave him alone in here, not when his eyes glinted at her, sharp and loud in the moonlight, even though his voice was quiet. Not while she could count exactly how many steps she would have to take to reach him. Not while he said her name, over and over, in a voice, which she realized would never fade, never stop echoing..