I just watched a cool documentary about the JFK assassination called “Frame 313” (a reference to the infamous Zapruder film.) What I liked about it is that it presents the evidence for and against 5 plausible theories to explain the Kennedy assassination. Was it Oswald acting alone? Was there CIA involvement? Was it a mob hit? Was the KGB involved? What about Cuban exiles?
It doesn’t end up promoting any one theory over the others (though my personal opinion, after watching, is that I’d be surprised if it was Oswald acting by himself.) It lets the viewer decide which theory or theories seem most plausible.
JFK’s assassination, of course, was not fictional. But the way the documentary unfolded reminded me “Clue! the movie” with Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, and Christopher Lloyd. Based on the classic board game, the movie ends with three different explanations, based on the movie’s convoluted plot, of who killed Mr. Boddy. It’s a classic in my opinion. A great comedy.
It all got me thinking about the role of human choice both in life and in fiction: what we know, what we think we know, what we don’t, and how that spurs us on. So many events in our lives every day–running late, for instance, or choosing to stop at this particular café– could have various explanations as well as various consequences.
- As a Christian, it makes me think of God’s amazing providence, writing straight with our crooked lines and making “all things work for good for those who love [Him]” as Paul says in Romans 8:28.
- As an author, it makes me think of feebly imitating that providence, perhaps subtly manipulating situations so that my characters will realistically do what I need them to given who they are. It also makes me thinks of the ways that (providentially) my plots have come together in ways that I never dreamed or intended or foresaw.
One of my major intents in crafting a second edition of my trilogy has been both to cut down on and also emphasize, if that makes sense, the role of providence. I cut down on coincidences, providing better, more likely scenarios for certain coincidental happenings while making the theme of providence more important (I think at least) while it becomes less explicit.
Have you seen either of the movies mentioned above? How do you feel about fiction that offers multiple explanations or endings?