I gave my students an assignment based on the radio pioneer Edward R. Murrow’s short essay series that he asked his listeners to write. Since its introduction in 1951, the This I Believe speech has been an engaging way for people of all walks of life to write and share the core values that guide their daily lives. As I started to read a few of these essays, I thought about what ‘I believed’ as the day went on. As I went over plot diagrams with my literature class, my thoughts melded. I believe that despite the complications in our lives leading us to experience different climaxes and reach different resolutions, we are all telling the same story.
The story of your life begins in the exposition. Exposition is a fancy word to say the background information that fills us in on who and what we are. The prior events that lead us to where we are, the historical context of where our story falls, the setting that our story will take place, and the group of characters that make up our story explain where we are.
A plot diagram itself looks like the side profile of a mountain. Before we start events that are our complications, which is called the rising action, there has to be an inciting incident. This inciting incident doesn’t have to be an elaborate scheme or the beginning of a huge storyline. The rising action can be the moment that you fall in love or the moment you take that internship at a law firm. The conflicts that we face allow us to climb the metaphorical mountain towards some climactic moment in our lives. That moment could be the birth of our children, that big promotion at work, or winning an Academy Award. In a plot diagram and life, most action takes place before the climax; but remember that being ‘over the hill’ is not the end.
After that climactic moment (the most exciting part of our story), we find ourselves living in the events that make up the falling action. Falling action leads us to fall down the mountain and see how our story is resolved. Some people experience their resolution earlier than what was originally planned and their stories end before their climax can be played out.
We must remember that no matter the setting our story takes place, the characters that enter our lives, or the events that happen in the exposition of our lives; it is the thing that makes us different is what truly unites us. As humans, we all have complicated expositions that put us in different places and times. We all climb a different mountain and experience different conflicts along the way. We all have different things that we view as the climactic parts of our lives. One way or the other, our stories will inevitably be resolved; and that makes us more alike than different.
Featured Image: Mount Ararat as seen from Armenia by Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52439216
Edward R Murrow attributed to Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=616409
Plot Diagram image attributed to Fair Use, study.com
Mountain Climbing with a pickaxe in Iceland by Jared Erondu erondu – https://unsplash.com/photos/8bzsuFNkiT8ImageGallery, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61873374