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Once there was a very evil city, on the shores of a great ocean. This city was full of wickedness and every manner of filth. They lived in great debauchery, and ignored the prophets who were sent to warn them. Whenever the prophets became impossible to ignore, they would persecute and kill them. In this manner they lived for many years.

One day, the inevitable day of reckoning and judgment came. The earth gave way beneath them, and the sea swallowed up that wicked city. For good measure, great fiery hailstones fell on the place where the city had been, and the steam and smoke made a great column that could be seen a hundred miles away. And thus the words of the prophets who had visited that city were all fulfilled, down to the letter.

There were just a small handful of survivors, survivors who managed to crawl up on what was now a new line of the coast. And there they sat in stunned amazement as they watched the destruction of all that they had ever known.

After a long silence, that extended through most of a day, one of them, a gray-headed old man, long schooled in the arts of corruption, shook his head in great sadness. The others looked at him, and said, “What shall we do? Shall we build a new city?”

“Yes, we must build a new city,” he said. “But now it must be built on a different foundation.”

“What do you mean?” they all asked. “Surely you don’t mean giving up our traditional way of life!”

“Not at all,” he said. “But before we can build a new city, we must first build a new literary school, a new approach to story-telling.”

Everyone just stared at him, so he continued. “In our new city, the first law of all story-telling must be this: from this day forward, all story-tellers must recognize that endings like that” — and here he pointed to the column of smoke — “are impossibly heavy-handed and preachy. Stories must have more subtlety and nuance.”

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