Endings and Beginnings

Today is Epiphany, and this marks the official end of Christmas. Sob. I love Christmas, but because today is no longer part of Christmas, our decorations came down last night.

Christmas probably feels like a long time ago, right? Christmas came mean many things for different people, but it almost always has certain rituals that mark its beginning and end. For some people, it’s the calendar – the 1st of December means that the tree is brought in and decorated, and the advent calendar is opened for the first time. For my family, we have Christmas music playing from this time, but the house itself is not decorated until the second Saturday in December.

Similarly, the end of Christmas can vary, but Epiphany is a general marking point for everyone. And Christmas is not the only event in our lives that has specific beginnings and endings.

It’s useful to have these natural markings that are in our lives when writing. We are so accustomed to using rites of passage to illustrate the stages of our characters’ lives, that it seems strange to me that we do not use other events more often. It’s almost a sort of rite of passage for the world.

You can easily demonstrate the emotional well-being of a father by the first time that he allows his daughter to choose her own suitor. A child leaving the nest is an ending, but also signals to the reader their maturity. The death of a character is not only a rite of passage for that character in particular, but also for everyone else that inhabits your book. How do they respond to this ending?

So often it is beginnings that have the emphasis. Even in my normal conversations, people ask, “How did you meet?” or “What was your first job?” We need to give a new emphasis to endings, to the parting of ways, to the last glance at someone your character loves…or hates.

And so, Christmas is at an end. As Shakespeare once wonderfully told us: parting is such sweet sorrow….

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