As writers we are expected to make sense of the senseless. We have to organize our stories so that the cause and effect is clearly identified although not always initially apparent to the reader. But in real life, mysteries outweigh certainty. Very rarely are there a direct cause and a direct effect. In life, we are left guessing at answers or stumbling around in a fog of confusion in which nothing makes sense.
I’ve been dealing with my daughter’s chronic illness that has been unexplained by Western medicine. For two months, she’s been sick with flu-like symptoms that have evolved into migratory aches and pains and a dire need to sleep 20 hours a day.
The blood and urine panels don’t reveal a definite cause. It could be anything from a virus that has decided its two week notice wasn’t enough to vacate the body to something more dark and insidious that Western medicine has not had the resources to explore.
The infectious disease specialist said the only thing for certain is the symptoms my daughter has are isolated to teenage girls in Sonoma County.
Sonoma County is a curious blend of technology and agriculture that is unique to the United States. It is close enough to the coast yet far enough inland. It encompasses hills, valleys, forests, vineyards, and suburban sprawl.
But why would a particular disease take up residence in one location? And why would it only infect a small population of teenage girls?
There are no answers.
But in fiction, there must be answers.
Things that don’t make sense in the real world must be understandable and believable in the fictional world in order for the reader to suspend disbelief.
But how do you write truthfully about life’s mysteries without losing the reader’s confidence?
You must build in the structure of uncertainty from the first word and continue in that same vein throughout the narrative so that the reader will think, “Of course, that’s possible.”
After all, a writer’s job is to make sense of the senseless, to bring solace to the inconsolable, and to find peace amidst chaos, because humans need to believe there is hope in the face of hopelessness.