A Pilgrim's Guide

The Art of Creative Writing

 Part Two

The Art of Creative Writing

Lead on Macduff

The time has come for us to move beyond examining the sources of our creativity to examine key stages of the writing process. We have chosen fiction writing as our default template, but most of the principles we will be exploring can be applied equally as effectively to any form of writing.

The first principle to bear in mind is that there is no such thing as a second chance for readers to obtain a first impression. If our openings fail to impress, people may quickly lose any incentive to continue just as a poor opening in a game of chess virtually dooms the novice to defeat. We have somewhere between a page and a page and a half to set the scene and convince them to read on.

In our favour is the fact that we can start our work in any way that we like. Most readers will be inclined to give us the benefit of the doubt, at least for a certain period of time. Whether they warm to our theme depends on whether we succeed in establishing a powerful setting and a conducive tonality.

A novel is more leisurely than a short story or a piece of tabloid journalism, but we still need to insert effective ‘hooks’ to draw readers in. Otherwise, we merely leave them facing a succession of facts or events.

We must be prepared to make as many revisions as we need before we discover the best way to couch our openings. Once we are reasonably satisfied that we have conveyed what we set out to do, then we will be in a position to entertain less and to inform more.
Given the important role the opening has to play, this particular banner takes the form of an all-important question which bids us cast a critical eye over the way we begin any of our writing projects: Do our lead-ins lead in successfully?

The Big Bang

‘It’s a terrible plan – you’ll be damn lucky to get back alive’. Colin Forbes, (The Palermo Ambush)

Thriller writers frequently favour the fastest route possible into the action. Colin Forbes’s dramatic start draws readers in and makes them desperately concerned to know the outcome of this unknown plot. Anything that raises suspense – ‘reader worry’ as we call it in the trade – is promising. A punchy question or a strongly phrased statement may be a perfect way to make readers want to join the writer in search of answers.

To start with a threat, and someone’s response to that threat usually makes for a strong opening. Threats predispose the reader to expect a sudden and abrupt change of circumstances. Change precipitates action, and because people are feeling vulnerable they often act out of character ways, or, alternatively, reveal characters strengths and weaknesses that would not normally be apparent. It is change which precipitates action and which brings people to a completely new stage of their lives. Our banner urges us boldly to ‘Start with the main person or point’. This is, after all, what the reader expects.

Elizabeth Goudge’s sensitive writing has nothing whatsoever in common with Colin Forbes’ more upbeat style, but she too shows that she knows how to land a strong punch, if the opening line of ‘The Scent of Water’ is anything to go by.

‘Mary, you will regret this’.

Opening thunder blasts make for compelling reading, but they give readers nothing to measure the threat or challenge against. In both examples referred to above, the ‘gunpowder’ tactic is effective, however, because it leaves the reader eager to find out what is going on. Many lesser writers would find it difficult to live up to such high expectations such after such hard-hitting openings. If we land mighty punches or insert powerful hooks, we must make sure that the rest of our text does not leave readers feeling anticlimactic. Although Colin Forbes is more than able to maintain the level of tension throughout that particular book, it is worth considering alternative opening gambits. It can often be more strategic to place the hook not in the first line, but a few lines further in to the story.

Take the following example, which admirably conveys the ‘Zeitgeist’– the prevailing sentiment of the period. The opening perfectly evokes the time, the place, the social class, the bright hope, and the invincible confidence of youth that were so prevalent at the outset of the First World War, but which were so shortly to be dashed amid the horrors of the trenches. The skill lies in the effect being achieved by what people say rather than by direct authorial comment.

I stood with Maynard Greville on the stone terrace outside the School House studies at Oundle in the spring of 1915.

“I vote we chuck all this at the end of term and join up,” said he.

“Wouldn’t it be fine! But they won’t let us.”

“Why not? We’re almost seventeen.”

“But old King says you can’t get a commission in anything until you’re eighteen.”

“Rot! What about the Flying Corps? They’ll take you at seventeen. They want young chaps.”

“Shall we speak to Beans?”

“No, he might stop us. I vote we write to the War Office and see what happens.”

“All right! Oh, Maynard, wouldn’t it be ripping! (Cecil Lewis: ‘Sagittarius Rising’)

The big bang opening has a concomitant: a little sting in the tail. It is always a sound ploy to leave readers at the end of each chapter with at least one insight that makes them reflect, or some sort of a hook to lead them onto the next section.

Pause and Put into Practice

Study the opening sentence of widely varying books and articles. Then do the same with the start of different chapters. Why is it that certain styles and phrases succeed in capturing our imagination whilst others do not?

In Medias Res

‘Seigneur La Grange’ . . .
‘What is it?’ . . .
‘What do you think about our visit? Were you completely satisfied with it?’
‘Do you think we have any right to be?’
‘Not entirely’.
‘As far as I’m concerned, I must confess to being completely scandalized by it!’
(Molière, ‘Les Precieuses Ridicules’).

If the aim of fiction is to create something more vivid and more dramatic than everyday life, then introducing readers right into the midst of a scenario that has already been under way for some time can be an excellent way to open a story, especially if a crisis is approaching! The great advantage of this is that it gives us the opportunity to create a detailed context and to introduce characters in ways that will make readers watch out for them when circumstances change for them. Starting ‘in medias res’ affords readers a strong sense of participating in the ongoing chain of events. Our banner hints at how rich this vein can be. ‘Show real people facing real dilemmas, dangers or disappointments. Then watch how they respond to these stimuli’.

Although we may have to do some mental gymnastics to leap from Molière to D.H. Lawrence, something of the same approach can be seen in the opening to ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’. The pace of this book is leisurely, almost at times to the point of being turgid, but the one thing we can be quite certain of is that the family situation as it is depicted for us on the opening pages will not remain static.

Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we must refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.

This was more or less Constance’s position. The war had brought the roof down over her head. And she had realised that one must live and learn.

Pause and put into Practice

Pause and put into Practice
Practice writing an opening that introduces readers to an on-going situations, preferably where conflict looms and characters are about to be unsettled.

Scene-setting

Many confident and important novels begin in a circumstantial, almost deceptively mild tone. They tell us such prosaic things as what kind of weather it is, who is walking along what road, the date, the time, and what is going on in the nation. Jane Austen, for example, opens her classic novel ‘Persuasion’, with something considerably more measured than a thunderclap or firework display.

Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch Hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage; there he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one; there his faculties were roused into admiration and respect by contemplating the limited remnant of the earliest patents; there any unwelcome sensations arising from domestic affairs changed naturally into pity and contempt as he turned over the almost endless creations of the last century; and there, if every other leaf were powerless, he could read his own history with an interest which never failed. This was the page at which the favourite volume always opened: ‘ELLIOT OF KELLYNCH HALL: “Walter Elliot, born March 1st, 1760, married July 15.”’ (Jane Austen, Persuasion)

In just a few words we see set out before us the shallowness, the snobbery, the selfishness, the cocoon of self-satisfied stupidity. We instinctively pity the family and tenants of such a man!

Another strong way to open a book (or a chapter) is to put the emphasis more on the place than the characters. If the locality is portrayed in a sufficiently interesting, or mysterious way, then the ‘plot’ will develop out of the setting – and the setting will aid the plot. The example below (actually the beginning of the third chapter of an acclaimed novel by François Mauriac) shows how effective this approach is for bringing readers right into the midst of an ongoing situation. It may sound a leisurely approach to adopt by today’s fast-moving standards, but a carefully selected setting still makes a highly effective starting point.

Argelouse is, in reality, an extremity of the earth: one of those places beyond which it is impossible to go. People in this region call it a district: a handful of farms but no church, town hall or cemetery. It is spread around a field of rye, six miles from the township of Saint-Clair, to which it is linked by a deeply pitted road. This rut-strewn road, overflowing with mud and puddles, becomes a mere sandy track beyond Argelouse, and from there until the ocean there is nothing except a sixty-mile stretch of marshes, lagoons and slender pine trees; sandy heathland on which, by the end of winter, the sheep have taken on an ashen hue. The leading families of Saint-Clair were born in this out of the way region. (François Mauriac, ‘Thérèse Desqueyroux’)

To Mauriac, the region of sandy heaths and moors that skirt the Atlantic Ocean to the south of Bordeaux is an integral part of his narrative. The scene-setting is almost an extension of the action itself.

The technique works less well when a carefully crafted description revolves around something less pivotal to the main thread of the tale. Thus, for example, Sebastian Faulks opens his well-written novel, ‘The Girl at the Lion d’Or’ with a beautiful description of a French railway station in the 1930’s. But since the railway theme is by no means central to the way the storyline, it tantalises rather than inspires and makes far less impact than it otherwise would do.

As to whether we choose real or imaginary places, this is clearly a matter for careful thought. Many readers are delighted to recognise places that are dear to them, and locals are usually glad to have their region immortalised. But imaginary or ‘composite’ places have their advantages too, particularly if we need to stretch geographical boundaries or over exaggerate certain features in order to induce a certain mood.

One important word of caution is in order here. Every time we write a description, we are effectively slowing the pace of the story down. In extreme cases, to open with a description might be somewhat akin to a referee blowing the whistle to start a football match and the players then meeting in the middle of the pitch to have a discussion.

Equally, if we begin a narrative by filling the reader in on what has been going on in the past, it might be likened to watching the players pass the ball back to the goalkeeper. To use another metaphor: does it make sense to ask the reader to stop for a cup of coffee on page one? Despite all these caveats, we may still be guilty of serious underwriting if at some point in the action (not necessarily the beginning) we ignore this banner: ‘An inspired setting greatly aids a book’s development’. We will take this thought further in the section ‘Distinguished Description’ in part three.

Flashback and Prediction

Certain films and novels begin as it were upside down or back to front, either pointing the way forward by showing us something that will only make sense at the end, or drawing us backwards to something crucial that happened in the past. ‘Enigma’, based on Robert Harris’ novel, opens with a woman striding imperiously through the city streets. Who she is, and what her significance may be only becomes clear later on.

Alfred Hitchcock’s first Hollywood film, ‘Rebecca’, was an adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier’s gothic novel. This film quickly established itself as the classic Hitchcock thriller. It is both a powerful ghost story and a thriller based around a tortured romance. The film begins with one of the most famous opening lines ever recorded: a recollection of times past that is narrated by the heroine of the film.

Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter for the way was barred to me. There was a padlock and chain upon the gate. I called in my dream to the lodge-keeper, and had no answer, and peering closer through the rusted spokes of the gate I saw that the lodge was uninhabited. Then, like all dreamers, I was possessed of a sudden and passed like a spirit through the barrier before me. And finally, there was Manderley. Manderley, secretive and silent . . . I looked upon a desolate shell, with no whisper of a past about its staring walls. We can never go back to Manderley again. That much is certain. But sometimes, in my dreams, I do go back to the strange days of my life which began for me in the south of France . . .

The narrator begins in flashback to tell the story of her life. The film cuts to a rocky coast, with waves crashing against the cliffs, the camera zooms in on a smartly dressed man who is standing at the cliff’s edge, staring out to sea. When he moves toward the edge, an attractive blond young woman walking nearby, concerned that he may be contemplating suicide, shouts at him.

Woman: ‘No! Stop!’
Man: ‘What the devil are you shouting about? Who are you? What are you staring at?’
Woman: ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to stare, but I, I only thought . . ‘.
Man: ‘Oh, you did, did you? Well, what are you doing here?’
Woman: ‘I was only walking’.
Man: ‘Well, get on with your walking and don’t hang about here screaming’.

Her story gradually emerges. This painfully shy young woman becomes attracted, and gets engaged to an introverted aristocrat who lives at Manderley, a large house in Cornwall. After the marriage she finds that Max de Winter is still mourning the death of his first wife, Rebecca, whose unseen presence overwhelms her. The dead woman is the cause of the unease and fear the young bride feels during her time at Manderley – much of it inflicted on her by Mrs Danvers, Rebecca’s devoted but tyrannical housekeeper.

Manderley itself is an integral part of both book and film: it is precisely the sort of mansion we would expect to find in a gothic novel, with rising turrets, menacing woods, and a long winding drive. It is only at the end of the film, as the Manderley estate goes up in flames, that we learn the real secrets of Rebecca’s character and death.

The ‘predictive’ quality that comes from telling a story in the form of a flashback is not always so successful. For example, in A.J. Cronin’s ‘Keys of the Kingdom’ my awareness of the circumstances the priest (who is the central character in the book) would be in at the end of the story makes me reluctant to embark on the long account of how he reached that sorry point – no matter how brilliant the writing in between, and the unexpected change of heart Sleeth (the Bishop’s cold blooded envoy experiences on the very last page.

Another drawback with making the end known from the beginning is that it effectively removes a potential source of tension. Perhaps that is what made me reluctant to watch the award winning film ‘Titanic’. I knew full well that the film was a love story – but the thought of spending nearly three hours watching the boat go down in freezing cold waters felt exceedingly unattractive. Perhaps these examples merely highlight my preference for a happy ending!

Flashbacks and predictive pointers are best used sparingly. As a general rule, we are on safe ground if we unfurl the banner that reminds us to ‘Keep the action in the present whenever we possibly can’.

In much the same way, using remote tenses such as the pluperfect conditional tense (‘he could have had’) takes the reader further away from any sense of immediacy. The principle is a sound one. If we start proceedings a long time after the change has happened, the story risks feeling too remote.

Exceptions include brief references to events that happened a long time ago and which are, as it were, the seed bed that explains things that are happening now. Frank Peretti includes such an episode at the very beginning of ‘The Oath’. To go back in time to deal with the events that led up to a present crisis is a perfectly permissible technique. When I wrote an account on the reign of the Jehoshaphat, one of the more interesting Hebrew kings, I did not start with an account of how he came to power, but began at his hour of greatest peril, when a coalition of enemy powers were advancing against his kingdom.

Pause and Put into Practice

Be on the lookout for books and films that open with a flashback or prediction. Do these effects ‘work?’ To put it another way, would the book or film be complete and satisfying without it?

Inside the Protagonist’s Mind

‘A prolonged bleating drifted up from the coombe, partially muffled by a row of frozen bushes. The sheep had smelt the presence of the man from afar. Despite being alone, Isaiah Vaudagne burst into laughter and increased his pace, his head bent against the wind, his cheeks streaked by the cold. His footprints left their mark on the thin layer of snow which covered the ground. He was in a hurry to look his sheep over. (Henri Troyat, ‘La Neige en Deuil’)

Whilst many books observe the central character from a distance, enabling us to pick up various clues about their character and personal history, a perfectly valid alternative is to begin a book inside the mind of the central character. Just as the struggle between two protagonists locked in mortal conflict is the warp and woof of most thrillers, so the sight of someone gripped with anxiety and locked in a battle with himself makes for compulsive reading in the case of ‘psychological’ novels. The aim here is to show people struggling with real dilemmas through complex thought processes. In fiction, ‘thoughts are actions,’ just as the mind is the centre of our own joys and struggles.

We can transpose this struggle on paper by presenting certain information and insights as coming from inside the head of at least one of the characters. When the action begins in earnest, we are psychologically prepared to watch out for them. As everyone knows, readers will do anything to follow a character they have taken to.

To take an example from a very different genre, and one which are not attempting to explore in any detail in this publication, William Morris’s poem creates a powerful impression because the doom is so personal and particular. It describes ultimate loss in a nondescript setting. Not only is it raining, but the countryside is flooded; the haystack itself is presumably in danger of rotting, a reflection on the state of the country (as a result of the civil war).

Had she come all the way for this,
To part at last without a kiss?
Yea, had she borne the dirt and rain
That her own eyes might see him slain
Beside the haystack in the floods? (William Morris, ‘The Haystack in the Floods’)

Pause and Put into Practice

Readers feel more affinity for characters whose inner workings they have discerned. Create a character you can ‘get inside. How will you help others to do the same?

Information-sharing

Continuing our search for openings that combine insight, challenge, passion, facts and fantasy in a cocktail that whets the appetite and draws readers in, few things are more effective than a bold statement or piece of information.

Martha Hailey Dubose begins ‘Women of Mystery,’ her substantial overview of the lives and works of notable crime novelists, with the words,

‘In the 1800’s, murder was decidedly not a proper topic for well-bred ladies and gentlemen’.

The effect works. The central theme is introduced; the prim and proper attitudes of a previous generation are clearly stated and the scene is set to show how public attitude has changed. The noted historian H. Trevor-Roper began his essay on Thomas Hobbes with a short sentence that summarises well the issues he goes on to elucidate.

‘When Thomas Hobbes, at the age of eighty-four, looked back on his life, he found the key to it in fear’.

Since ours is undoubtedly the information age, there is no reason why we should avoid presenting our readers with information. If music is a central theme in a book, for example, then there is nothing wrong with presenting some information about it. On the other hand, we do not want to be like the ‘children who are up in dates, and floor you with ‘em flat’. (Such children were, of course, prime candidates in Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘The Mikado’ for the Lord High Executioner to behead).

Winston Churchill’s first volume about the Second World War ‘The Gathering Storm’ likewise opens with his classic epigraph that embodies a stinging criticism of national policies that ultimately led to the millions of lives being lost. Alone among western leaders, Churchill knew that Hitler could, and should, have been stopped in his tracks at a much earlier date: had anybody had the courage to stand up to him.

After the end of the World War of 1914 there was a deep conviction and almost universal hope that peace would reign in the world. This heart’s desire of all the peoples could easily have been gained by steadfastness in righteous convictions, and by reasonable common sense and prudence. The phrase “the war to end war” was on every lip, and President Wilson made the concept of a League of Nations dominant in all minds.

We have cited below Churchill’s opening paragraph, with its measured diction springing from the classics of English historiography. The tone is of serious irony and gains immeasurably in authority from the author being who he is.

HOW THE ENGLISH-SPEAKING PEOPLES
THROUGH THEIR UNWISDOM
CARELESSNESS AND GOOD NATURE
ALLOWED THE WICKED TO REARM

A popular gambit is to open with an attention-grabbing or even provocative statement that says the very opposite of what might commonly be expected. In the extract below, Philip Larkins adopts an attitude towards children in the first three sentences that is sufficiently caustic to make one read on, even if the rest of the material is not, perhaps, as satisfying as one might have hoped. (He does, however, modify his opening polemic).

‘It was that verse about becoming again as a little child that caused the first sharp waning of my Christian sympathies. If the Kingdom of Heaven could be entered only by those fulfilling such a condition, I knew I should be unhappy there. It was not the prospect of being deprived of money, keys, wallet, letters, books, long-playing records, drinks, the opposite sex and other solaces of adulthood that upset me (I should have been about eleven) but having to put up indefinitely with the company of other children, their noise, their nastiness, their boasting, their back-answers, their cruelty, their silliness. (Philip Larkins, ‘The Savage Seventh’)

There is always mileage in opening with something stimulating or controversial. Thus Eiseley’s opening sentence in ‘The Snout’ is simply this:

‘I have long been an admirer of the octopus’.

Loren’s interest (real or feigned) in this rather unlovable creature is sufficient to make the uncommitted give him the benefit of the doubt and to examine whether they have missed something that ought to make them, too, afficionados of the octopus.

The information we share does not need to be strictly accurate. It can be enlarged, exaggerated, or reduced according to taste, humour and intention. Whichever route we choose, it will pay to remember the banner for this section: ‘Whenever possible, share facts from an interesting or unusual angle’.

Bearing in mind the risks we considered earlier of slowing the action down too much in the opening pages, let us suppose that I am writing up an account of Rosalind’s trip to the west coast of America.

Mrs Weston began by saying, “I quite like travelling, even to places like the west coast of America, which I visited last year.”

The commas are less intrusive and a redundant phrase (‘even to places like’) has been removed. What is still missing is the hint of a carrot, that anything special happened on that last visit which will make us want to read on. Another change of emphasis and both word order and phrasing become considerably more dynamic:

“Travelling!” Rosalind exclaimed. “I love it – especially the west coast of America. You won’t believe what happened there last year.”

This third attempt hooks into readers’ latent interest in the west coast of America, and makes them curious to know what happened to Rosalind.

Openings that purport to instruct but which really set out to entertain also provide an excellent platform. Near the beginning of ‘Ten Rules for a Happy Marriage,’ James Thurber writes,

I have avoided the timeworn admonitions such as, ‘Praise her new hat,’ ‘Share his hobbies,’ ‘Be a sweet heart as well as a wife,’ and ‘Don’t keep a blonde in the guest room,’ not only because they are threadbare from repetition but also because they don’t seem to have accomplished their purpose. Maybe what we need is a brand-new set of rules’. And aren’t we, the readers, eager to find out what these might be?

It should also be possible for every writer to devise openings which draw on a sufficiently broad experience-base to draw people in, even to something that they themselves have not experienced. Thus Lewis Thomas starts his essay ‘To Err is Human’ with the bold statement,

‘Everyone must have had at least one personal experience with a computer error’.

On other occasions, the focus is on someone who has done something distinctively different from the majority of us. How about Henri Nouwen, who forsook his role as a popular lecturer at Harvard University and went to care for the handicapped at L’Arche Daybreak Community in Toronto? Faced with no longer being in a university environment, he found to his immense distress that he had all too much in common with the elder son in the parable of the Prodigal Son. This is how he recorded his first steps in this complete lifestyle change.

The move from Harvard to L’Arche proved to be but one little step from bystander to participant, from judge to repentant sinner, from teacher about love to being loved as the beloved. I really did not have an inkling of how difficult the journey would be. I did not realise how deeply rooted my resistance was and how agonising it would be to ‘come to my senses’. (Henri Nouwen, ‘The Return of the Prodigal Son’)

Few of us are called to quite such a radical change of lifestyle as this great man, but do we not all feel a desire, almost a compulsion, to see what happened when a senior lecturer exchanged the stimulating life of an Ivy League University for intimate communion with a group of people to whom rational academic arguments and logical thought mean less than nothing? To these people Nouwen became a true father— and in the process overcame much of the pride, jealousy, moaning, anger, sullenness and subtle self-righteousness which he now realised he had secretly harboured for so long.

Whichever style of starting scenario we opt for (and there really is no limit to the number of permutations possible) certain basic detail will always need to be addressed. In one form or another we must convey – and at some early stage in the proceedings – sufficient information concerning time and place, as well as formulating the outline of the crisis or issue which will be at the heart of the book.

All our literary skill must be deployed to ‘earth’ our readers, and to retain their interest. Everything must therefore contribute to a sense of leading somewhere. We can no more afford to have loose ends floating around in the beginning than we can in the conclusion. If details are included in the opening, they must serve a purpose. Our final banner in this section reminds us to view our work as a whole: ‘Whatever threads or threats we insert must be there for a purpose and be properly outworked’.

Endings that do Justice to the Beginning

‘Everything has an end, except a sausage which has two’. (Danish Proverb)
‘A beginning, a muddle and an end’. (Philip Larkin)
‘Great is the art of beginning, but greater the art of ending’. (Thomas Fuller)

It is time now to consider how to draw our work to a close. One of John Major’s most memorable put downs was when he said of his chief political opponent, that ‘he has nothing to say and therefore goes on for so long because he doesn’t know he hasn’t said it!’

Unkind though his remark may have been, it is a poignant reminder that once we have made the point we intended to make, we should be looking for the nearest exit. As soon as we find ourselves thinking along these lines, ‘In conclusion, we can learn, note, deduce, suggest, it is time to be looking for a suitably apt and original ending. We cannot afford to allow the reader to lose interest at a crucial moment simply because we have run out of fresh ideas.

A satisfying conclusion leaves a pleasant aftertaste, and causes readers to remember a book with favour long after they have finished the final page. The ending is all important to the short story, because the whole account is geared to lead up to the climax. The novel, being more spacious, may not require quite such clear-cut resolutions.

Some novelists, indeed, prefer an open-ended conclusion; not so much petering out but deliberately finishing in medias res, leaving many things to be played out by the characters. This may be less a case of the author being unable to pull the threads together than a subliminal protest that since so many issues do not resolve conveniently in real life, why contrive to establish such orderly patterns on paper? Plausible though such arguments may sound in the cold light of a writer’s workshop, the reality is that most readers are eager for all the loose ends to be tied up neatly.

Just as ‘surprise’ episodes inject life into the main storyline, so some special twist towards the end is always a sound idea. We are not speaking of some jack-in-the-box concoction that would be entirely out of keeping with the rest of the work, but something that will keep readers from feeling as though they are merely being served up a rehash of things they had long since perceived.

Often, we will want to develop themes we mentioned earlier on. As T.S. Eliot wrote in ‘Four Seasons’: ‘In my beginning is my end’. As we unfurl this particular banner, it will make us reflect more analytically about our concluding sections. ‘Have we tied up all the loose ends and answered all the questions we have raised in readers’ minds?’ If we have then we are indeed well on the way to developing a profound art form; one that belies the hard work as well as the artistry that has gone into the preparation.