Eschatology and Writing

pathwayI 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.

Whether a story involves the four riders of the Apocalypse or not!
Whether a story involves the four riders of the Apocalypse or not!

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.


6 thoughts on “Eschatology and Writing

  1. This is the part of the critiquing that becomes difficult. You have to decide sometimes on your own the validity of a scene. This is where you have to be really honest and consider what the story would be without the scene and it if really is justified to be in there. CPs can only offer suggestions, the decision still comes down to being mostly you. I would say just make sure you have value shifts (the positive to negative, negative to positive thing) and tension and it’ll probably all work out.

    Love the philosophical parts of this post too. 😀

    1. Yeah. Sometimes I want to throw the manuscript onto someone else because of the burden of such choices. *laughs* oh dear. I mustn’t rely so much on CPs.

      Jae, would you do a post on value shifts sometime, please? I think I understand their concept, but proper application of them (in both reading and writing) is more difficult, especially since – though my mind offers example against its own thoughts – the words ‘positive to negative’ (or vice versa) make me think ‘happy to sad’, which is, of course, not necessarily the same.

      I thought you’d like the philosophy 🙂 We look at Eschatology a bit in part of my course, but I decided I’d do some more research and apply it here.

      1. Yes ma’am. Actually, thanks for a post idea. April’s blog featuring won’t last forever. 😉 This gives me time to ponder on it and come up with examples too.

        Value shifts can be happy to sad, but not always. But I’ll do a post all the same.

  2. I thought Kati and I had done a really good job of editing, cutting out anything unnecessary, bringing our total word count from 110,000 to just under 90,000. Then I had a couple more CPs take a look, and they found whole scenes that, when I really stopped and thought about it, weren’t entirely necessary to the story. Or maybe they were necessary, but they really dragged so they needed to be cut down, changed, made more immediate…anyways, we’re now down to 82,000, and I think our story is much better for it, but I totally understand how it can be painful to hear these critiques. I’m still recovering. 😉

    I’ve found that usually if a CP has an issue with a scene, even if I think it’s important in the story, there’s probably something within that scene that just isn’t working. But sometimes I disagree, too, and I know that scene works as it is…like you said, your CP doesn’t have the whole picture. It’s definitely a balancing act, deciding which critiques to take to heart and which to disregard.

    Great post! I always feel like I learn something new from your blog. 🙂

    1. I’m glad you learn new things from my posts. I like to teach ideas. 🙂
      Well done for cutting so much anyway! When I first started ‘editing’, I found I was only adding things – but in the 80s is a good length for a novel, I think. It’s difficult to know exactly what needs to be cut.
      It doesn’t help that I’ve only really had one CP, so a lot of my decisions are based on her feedback.

      I get what you mean 🙂 For me, it’s often a case of characters standing/sitting around and talking, rather than doing things, and I like that my CP suggests where I should add more physical to the scene. I don’t really know what ‘immediacy’ means in plot terms, but I like your use of it. I think I should try and make each scene of mine more immediate.

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