The last week of our course will be devoted to the topic of endings. That's only fitting. The end of our time together will be taken up by a consideration of how stories and games deal with the problem of ending. We have a smaller group with us today. Unfortunately, Killian and Blaine have commitments that prevent them from joining our seminar for this lesson. Before we can understand how stories end, we need to know something about the shape of stories in general. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle said that stories needed to have a beginning, a middle and an end. This seems pretty fundamental, but it's held up for 2,000 years and we haven't made that much progress beyond Aristotle's insight. But this simple insight of his brought with it a whole host of implications that we're going to talk about today. So, let's begin with the beginning. That's very good place to start. Yes! It's a very good place to start. What goes into a good beginning? Deanne, do you have thoughts about what goes into a good beginning in a story? Yeah. I mean I think there can be lots of different things, but I'd like... This is very, very broad. It's something that captures my attention, so it could be something that, like is a relatable story perhaps, or it could be something that's just fascinating, maybe something I've never heard of before, it could be action-packed- any of those things. So that's like a hook in a newspaper article, but a hook alone won't start a story into action. So, what makes for a hook that is a narrative hook? Don. I think one thing that's necessary is that this hook has... I think of it as like a domino effect, like it's connected to a chain of other things that are going to follow and yeah, it has to have some link to it. It's part of a chain, which is a great point, but how does it become the first link in a chain? You see that the question of what goes into a good beginning is not instantly intuitive is it? Really, it needs to pose a problem to the reader. It has to set something up, I mean think about a simple genre, example like a mystery story. Well, you know it starts a mystery. That enigma at the beginning that mystery tales have turned into the entire principle of their narrative is a good model for what needs to happen really in all beginnings. There has to be some kind of change, or problem posed that grabs your attention, that links to other things, and that allows you to introduce the chief players in action. Aristotle thought that a great story should begin in medias res, in the middle of things that really should just break right in, and that was somewhat implicit in most of the things we've just said. Does "The Fellowship of the Ring" begin in medias res? Really, it sort of begins in the space between acts if you think about the long history that is a constant presence of the book but isn't actually in the book. That's why he needs the prologue. You know Tolkien was so interested in creating this entire imaginative world that he had an elaborate back story with a history going back to previous ages of Middle Earth. So he wanted to have the reader understand that entire surround as part of it. You don't immediately realize that in fact you are as you say, between the end of Bilbo's story and the beginning of Frodo's story, but Frodo doesn't know a story is beginning, that's very common. I mean the main character often doesn't know that a story has just begun. The reader suspects it. Knows it. If the reader has read The Hobbit, the reader is pretty sure that there's going to be a good adventure. This ring is the beginning, and the passing of the ring. What happens in middles? Well, Aristotle did not have much insight into middles. He didn't have much to say about it, he just said that's what follows the beginning and precedes the end. That really doesn't help us much, but what other people have really picked up the ball and thought quite profoundly about middles. Roland Barthes spoke of what he called the "dilatory space" of the middle. What could he mean by "dilatory" there? That it flexes, it expands and contracts and contains you know.... It's a space for digressions as well. You know there's room in it to move around- it dilates. It can kind of pause, it can get lost, or wander. What's the word for wandering have we had all course along? "Errantry", which contains that sense of erring, of getting lost. A crucial element to this narrative is that no matter how much it seems to wonder, it nonetheless possesses a logic that was there from the beginning. That's what Don meant, I think, when he said that it sets the beginning as the first in a chain. Aristotle talked about that sense of a story unfolding from a beginning in terms of a concept he called "Entelechy". So Don, can you explain a little more of what Aristotle seemed to mean by entelechy? I think it's sort of like a chain reaction idea, the idea that the end solves a problem, or fulfils some kind of promise that is posed at the beginning of the story. That's a great definition of his use of it in relation to narrative. He uses it in other ways in some of his more philosophical writing. The romantics derive the concept of organic unity from this principle, that a story grows organically. Deanne, do you have more to say about that? Yeah! Well I was just thinking that entelechy sounds a little bit like when we were reading Juul, and he was talking about the rules of a game and the way that the game has to operate according to that rules. I'm thinking about the internal logic of the story being sort of parallel to that, and you being able to see the connection there between these Aristotelian theories and the much newer gaming theories. That it is the ideal in a great game, isn't it? That the logic of the rules would also work effectively with the entelechy in a narrative. A lot of the times, that's not the case. You know in a lot of games, the rules kind of take our intention. Yeah, and I wasn't actually even thinking about it being in the narrative. I was thinking about the logic of the game being parallel to the logic of the story. Isn't that the dream? Isn't that the dream of a game developer at least in regards to how the game should work with the story? I'm sure they have other dreams as well. Not within the game, not even within the game. Say the game only has it's sort of, it's rules and no narrative, which would be difficult I think, because I do think some are less narrative. But I'm saying that the way that the narrative operates in say, "The Lord of The Rings" books. It sets up, I mean things happen that are not possible in real life, but we go along with them because that is the logic of the story world, right? In games, I'm thinking of a similar kind of world creations. Like chess pieces, like there's not like a logical reason that they would all have different ways of moving necessarily, and yet in order to play that game, you have to adhere to these certain arbitrary rules that you go along with, because it's part of the world of chess. You know, this is a very fruitful discussion. What we're driving at ultimately is that there are generally two principles of entelechy simultaneously at work. The internal logic of the ruleset and the internal logic of the narrative, and sometimes those are more effectively coordinated than others.