“Exit, pursued by a Bear”
—–Shakespeare, Winter’s Tale, Act III, Scene 3
Brexit just happened—that decision by the UK to leave the umbrella of the European Union. The decision is a consequential one, and already there have been wild fluctuations in the world markets as the British pound has hit a 30 year low. Over night, the UK’s credit rating has fallen. Jobs will most likely disappear. Brits will now have to get a visa and go through customs when they travel to the new “abroad” which is the continent. And it is altogether possible that this will spell the end of a United Kingdom, as Scotland pushes to secede from the union.
On the bright side for Americans, interest rates will not go up and, therefore, we find ourselves in a position to overextend ourselves on a house we can hardly afford. Of course, we also may lose that job that allows us to pay for the house. Why? Because the dollar is so strong that it means nobody can afford to buy the products we make. Soon there will be lay-offs and defaults on mortgages nationwide. Me: I’m not thinking about any of that. I’m busy planning a vacation to the UK so I can go shopping at Harrods!
Brexit has made me realize that fiction depends so much upon exits: their consequences, intended and unintended. The complications are where it’s at. And Shakespeare’s most famous stage direction—“exit, pursued by a bear”—resonates across the centuries because our imagination is pitched toward the emotional meanings of an exit: fear, loathing, absurdity.
Perhaps this is why the reporting of Brexit has become so much cloaked within the many metaphors of the exit: exits are part of the way we are hard-wired to see the world. Take a look at the headlines. Brexit is a break up of a marriage—an abusive relationship come to an end, a terrible fall from grace in which man is forever cast out of the Garden.
So here is your task: find a moment for an exit in your story. It can be at the beginning, middle or end. But perhaps to make this exercise work best, you should put it front and center. Think of this moment not as an everyday exit but as a Brexit. Think of all the ways it can have unintended consequences, how it can rear its ugly head. Think of the people who benefit from the backdoor—those carpetbaggers who will show up at the Harrods of somebody else’s life and loot their shelves. Think of the ways a Brexit also metes out its ironic punishments—the way that same carpetbagger will return home to a house repossessed and nowhere to store all the many treasures that they have carted off from that fabled department store far far away.