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I'm most recently a writer.  In the six plus decades of my life, I've been a wife, mother, grandmother, Jill of all trades though mistress of but a few, and most of the time pretty content with my lot.  As a much younger person, I believed I was called to write, but life and living distracted me for most of those decades.  An unwilling transplant from the South,  twenty years ago I unintentionally landed in the geographical center of the US.  Writing came about in part due to the unwillingness, I expect.  When caring for family, gardening, and renovating a century-old house failed to provide sufficient creative outlets, I turned to the one thing I always intended to do.  Eight titles later, I'm grateful I found myself while Lost in the Plains!

Monday, February 18, 2013

On Death, Downton and Dangling Plot Lines

There's plenty of animated conversation around last night's US airing of Downton Abbey.  Frankly, when I turned off my TV last night, I was leaning toward writing it out of my limited viewing schedule next season.  The death of Matthew Crawley eliminates the series' most relatable character and tips the balance back in favor of diehard aristocrats and their equally socio-economically shackled servants struggling against a post-WWI world in which we all know they are destined to become extinct.  That said, this morning, I saw things from a different perspective, that of writer Julian Fellowes, whose razor sharp pen gives Downton its stunning brilliance.

Presumably, Fellowes knew well in advance that Matthew would have to go. However, there are always last minute reprieves in cases of actors and their contractual decisions, so just in case, we never actually see Matthew hauled away to the cemetery.  The most remote of possibilities exists that, as in previous notable instances, what seemed a fatal accident was not and Matthew might yet rise to reclaim his role as Downton's all-round knight-in-shining-armor.  That is probably wishful thinking.  Barring that miracle (and bear in mind, Matthew already recovered from one tragic injury to marry the love of his life and father a child, so miracles do happen, even at Downton) Matthew is survived by a handful of dangling plot lines in which his memory will no doubt be honored.  Will Lady Mary and Branson unite across the social barricade to carry on the modernization of the estate? (Hard to imagine the Ice Princess thawing enough to succumb to the hunky Irishman's charms, but if anyone could make that plausible, it would be Fellowes.)  Will Edith and her editor move forward with their illicit romance, undetected by the Family?  Matthew was after all the only one who knew of the secret and insane wife standing in the way of their happiness.  Will Matthew's mother, Isobel, make a U-turn in her grief and fall into the arms of the sincere and needy Dr. Clarkson?  With Matthew's death, many have lost their champion. Surely there are other heroes waiting in the wings to pick up his fallen standard, perhaps even more charming and boyishly noble than he?

I suppose, after all, I will tune in next year, if only to see what sort of magic Fellowes works with the surviving cast.  If nothing else, there's the joy of watching Maggie Smith do what only she can do, slash to the jugular with the arch of an eyebrow, or heart-breakingly portray the grief of a grandmother with one faltering step across the marble foyer. 

As a writer (and don't for one moment think I place myself in the company of one such as Julian Fellowes!), plot lines can be unruly creatures.  If I'm trying to write about characters whose lives have some relevance to the readers' own experience, as opposed to super-heroes, vampires, aliens, zombies or nymphomaniacs, I feel it necessary to pace their lives accordingly.  We've all lived through periods of change, upheaval and grief, blessedly spaced with times of relative stability, peace and happiness. The mundane must march with the memorable.  I've seen no reason yet to radically alter the progression of their lives by killing off one of my characters, or irreparably ending a relationship, for that matter, in order to tie up a dangling plot line.  Even as I completed this latest addition to my series, which at times I admit I thought might be the last, I found it implausible to bring every couple to a happy-ever-after, or resolve all outstanding issues, whether past, present or future.  Life isn't like that.  We've all read in books, or witnessed on screens large and small, the phenomenon of everyone and everything rushing together in the last few pages or minutes to leave the audience with a sigh of exhausted relief and the cryptic sense that nothing ever happens quite that way. 

Perhaps it's better to leave some things unfinished, a few threads dangling to entice the imagination.   Downton Abbey sits majestically awaiting its future, my little series leaves open the possibility there will be "more in the life of" additions.  Each of our lives moves ahead in anticipation of what might happen tomorrow. We all need something to look forward to next season.

Tune in next time!

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