“As above, so below.”

A hermetic concept — related to occult hermeticism, not living as a hermit — the phrase “as above, so below” is a shortened version of a longer expression. That’s usually the case with stuff like this anyway.

It’s interpreted a number of different ways but in particular, I like the version or interpretation that lends to microscopic-macroscopic symmetry.

Symmetry’s a pretty thing. Gosh, it’s such a complicated subject.

Without going into too much detail, let me just throw this out there — there’s a way to improve symmetry, and that’s with a bit of asymmetry. You have a thing that’s almost but not quite mirrored. There’s even math behind it.

So why do I care? What does it matter?

I bring it up because of symmetry in fiction. There are a whole bunch of — what I would consider redundant — tropes related to narrative symmetry. Chekov’s Gun, Medias Res, Framing Story, and Bookend Ending, for example.

The end of a story should be like its beginning.

That’s narrative symmetry.

But if you see the beginning, you should know how the story ends, right? Technically maybe. See, a good story will actually end in a pretty obvious way, but it’s the journey that counts. It’s about knowing why it happened that way.

An exciting story with an exciting ending should have an exciting beginning. That’s where you get Medias Res. You begin in the “middle” of a story which is really just the end of another story but the point is to mirror the energy of the ending.

Almost any given James Bond film is a good example.

Why are a lot of fantasy stories just terrible, and lose people in the beginning? Because they’re bogged down with exposition and slow or boring beginnings. An epic fantasy story should be epic from beginning to end.

But you don’t want to lose that energy, you still want escalation.

It’s that escalation that has to make the end mirror the beginning. It’s this escalation that tells the audience why things are going down the way they are — but also explains exactly how it’s going to be different this time.

It’s when you have the experience of the story that you understand.

And I mean, this is why “show don’t tell” is so important. If you tell the audience what’s going on, then they can’t experience it for themselves. They aren’t given the chance to “get it” and so they’re left to figure out something else — which I think lends to some instances of Everyone is Jesus in Purgatory.

Some things will be misinterpreted and you can’t help that.

But if you let the story be what it is — with the journey explaining how you got from point A to C, where C is equal to A+B — then you have the basic recipe of good storytelling. After that, a lot of it is just technique.