Fiction tries to embrace the world. Yet when the power of real-world events overtakes us, we writers of stories pause inside a necessary silence. We now contemplate six innocent dead whose stories were taken away from them in that savage Arizona shooting. The power of this loss is chastening. It asks us as writers to question how we proceed — not in order to paralyze us, but to make us understand what stories can and cannot do.
A nine year-old child by the name of Christina Green was shot dead in the January 8th massacre. Her brief life, by all accounts, was filled with energy and delight. She was her parents’ treasure, a stellar student who loved politics and baseball and animals. Her life also had a tragic narrative arc. Born on September 11th, 2001, she knew herself to be a sign of hope, and then she, too, was attacked by a fanatic.
Were you to write this true and dreadful taking of a life as a work of fiction, it would seem implausible, too tidy, too contrived in its irony and horror. Fiction leaves life room to breathe. This is what stories do. A story that ties up every loose end seems false, somehow, as if the author’s controlling hand had refused to let it live.
An individual with a loaded gun put an end to Christina’s story. Its cruel narrative arc was imposed on her. The horrendous symmetry of her brief life mocks life. It breaks the heart.