The Need to Understand that Every Story Is Incomplete

Aaron Pace
4 min readFeb 18, 2024
Photo by Alexander Kultashev on Unsplash

If you are old enough to remember the 1980s, you’ll probably remember the choose your own adventure books that were popular during that decade. The idea was simple: a book would have multiple paths that led to different endings. As you read, you could choose where to go next. The cheap books had stories that concluded within a few pages. The better ones led you down well lit paths on multiple adventures that could take hours (or days) to fully explore.

Some of those books were not well edited and you would occasionally find one that led to either a literal or figurative dead end; a line of “adventure” that led to an ending that made no sense or that looped back on itself because of a typo on a page number.

In third-person literature, the narrator is omniscient. That is, the narrator knows things — often shares things with the reader— that the characters in the story can’t know. Even when recounting non-fiction, historical events, the author knows the outcome whereas the people involved in those events don’t know how things will play out. To the outsider, the outcome might seem a forgone conclusion.

We often view each other’s lives as though we are the omniscient narrator of their story; that we have somehow been endowed with power to look at another’s life and figure out where they’ve gone wrong and what they’ve done right. We reason, they are where they are because of their choices and actions alone.

One of my favorite authors, in a very old text, wrote, “I do not desire that [you] should suppose that I mean to judge you only according to that which is true.”

Why would he write that? Is he insinuating that we should judge each other based on what isn’t true?

For most of us, challenging our own perceptions is difficult, and when not challenged our perceptions become our reality. For example, I’ve worked with a man who has had a lot of good ideas in the past. Consequently, his confirmation bias — his perception of his ability to have good ideas that play out well — is off the charts. Others might have good ideas, but if he believes his idea is better, he’s close-minded about considering other options. Because he’s been right so many times in the past, it’s clear (to him) that his ideas are always best.

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Aaron Pace

Married to my best friend. Father to five exuberant children. Fledgling entrepreneur. Writer. Software developer. Inventory management expert.