I love having a Critique Partner to point out my flaws invisible to my own eye, but sometimes I find what she says hard to digest. I know I’ve hit a bad couple of scenes for content (I must have been in a dialogue mood back then), but having her suggest that they add little is a strike to my face in metaphorical terms. I mean, she’s right, but that doesn’t make it any less painful.
However, one of the problems about Critique Partners is that they are normally working chapter by chapter. Which means they are unable to properly judge a scene’s purpose in the entire story, until they reach the end, when the scenes will not be as fresh. I’ve certainly had this when I have critiqued pieces myself. How can a reader know what they wish to leave to finality to tell?
It’s an excuse, but – that’s life. We don’t know what’s around the corner. Indeed, some atheists (logical positivists, back in the day) use the argument that there is no way to verify or falsify claims made by prophets or the Bible or Christianity in general to say that the lack of knowing automatically makes these claims untrue.
But many Christians will tell you it’s not about knowing when and where or what.
So what do we do when we face the brick wall of nesciens (not-knowing)?
Eschatological suppositions. The term ‘eschatology’ – from the Greek ἔσχατος, literally meaning ‘a study of last/final events’ . Whilst, indeed, it is primarily a study of the end of ‘ordinary reality and reunion with the Divine’ (in mystic philosophy), I am using it within this post for the broader sense of knowing – and, possibly, verifying – future events before they happen.
John Hick’s example was that of two people walking along a road; they won’t know (scio) where the road will go, whether to a forest or a village, but they will get to know (cognosco) it when they’re there. (This is where the distinction in linguistics is put into practise, showing how lazy our modern use of English has become.)
They will only know which of them has been right about the destination when they reach it.
In the same way, I think crafting a story takes eschatology. Indeed, firstly, from the author, who might well let their creativity run free enough not to know where there plot is going to end up; that is to say: they ‘pants’ it.
I believe that plotters also suffer from a kind of eschatology. The proper definition of eschatology, if I may say that. They know what might happen – indeed, if done well enough, a plotter can track a character every step of their way – but there is no proper way to verify their thoughts, their assumptions until they have certain words in ink across the page.
Too, critiquers don’t know the end until they reach it. They can guess – we want to keep them guessing – but they won’t know if their guesses are right or wrong until they read the exact next chapter.
And it’s their difficulty to make the call that one scene may not actually move the plot along. Okay, so maybe his injuries are blown out of proportion, but it adds tension and – though you don’t know this – it means he has to talk to his father. The injuries are like the Burning Bush (if I’m keeping with Philosophy metaphors): small miracles that start a chain of events, leading to the huge, antithesis miracle, that freeing of the Jews.
I’m obstinate. I still say that each of my chapters has a meaning, however unclear in some present thought.