Destiny― the events that will necessarily happen to a particular person or thing in the future.
Fate― the outcome of a particular situation for someone or something, seen as beyond their control.
In the Any Tomorrow trilogy, destiny and fate are referenced many times and, in fact, destiny is a primary driver of the action. In popular fiction the two terms are often used interchangeably and, I must confess, I find myself doing the same if only to break the monotony of constantly using the same term. The two words are used interchangeably, but to my mind they are unique in terms of action.
The definitions provided are necessarily those that fit my view, but you can read the complete definitions from the OED, for yourself. To me, destiny is the force that drives a character towards his/her inescapable fate. Fate is the result of destiny. Along the route of his/her destiny there are numerous decision points, but destiny necessarily denies free will. It may allow the character the impression that he/she can, at any point make a decision that will change their fate, but that is a false hope. That false hope is a natural generator of internal conflict.
To illustrate this point, we’ll look at two characters whose fate is both well-known and undeniable.
The first is Adam. Almost everyone knows the biblical story, but there’s a twist. There is a belief that Adam had free will, that as he journeyed along his destined path to the tree where hung the notorious apple, he could have stepped away and denied his fate. But could he have denied the serpent? Not a chance. Because if he had denied the serpent, he would have never impregnated Eve and the history of everything would stopped in the garden. Oh,yeah, and you and I would not exist because we are the children of Adam’s sin.
That’s the simple truth of it. Adam was predestined to take the apple and bring sin into the world so that later on Jesus Christ could come into the world to redeem it through his death upon the cross. I’m not arguing the theology, just the logic. Adam’s destiny was to eat the apple and his fate was to die in sin.
And that brings us to the second example which isn’t Jesus, although he didn’t have a choice either, but Judas Iscariot. Although the New Testament doesn’t give much detail about his life or motives, he was clearly not in control. His destiny was to betray Jesus and his fate was to hang on the tree. Much like Adam, had he not committed the sin of betraying the man Jesus, the Christ world would not have redeemed the world through his death upon the cross and resurrection. Then where would all of us Christians be? To say that Judas had free will would be to say that God had another betrayer waiting in the wings in case Judas chickened out at the last minute.
And then there was Jesus. Could the man Jesus have denied the Christ within him and escaped the cross? Much has been written about the inner torment of the man struggling with the divine. The same conflict inevitably must have occurred in the minds of Adam and Judas, wouldn’t you think? These were men compelled to play a pivotal role in the fate of mankind. Unless they were witless pawns there must have been some moment of recognition of the overwhelming import of their actions.
That realization and the psychological struggle that it generates makes for stimulating fiction. Even though you know that fate is undeniable, you still hope that somehow, the hero can escape it, even if by dying, he can save the entire world.
In the Any Tomorrow trilogy, the main characters see themselves as caught in something beyond their control. This excerpt from Any Tomorrow: The Calling illustrates what I mean.
Gustav sat for a moment considering this latest unexpected event in a long list of unexpected events. He certainly had no inkling that this would occur and he balked slightly at being handed a schedule by which he must now abide. It was one thing to decide to flee to America, but quite another thing to be pushed to do it. This, after all, was more than predeterminancy, he could accept that. This was mechanical manipulation of events by an organization he was not entirely sure he trusted. On the other hand, how did he know for certain that these events, even those apparently orchestrated by deAcutane and the Order of Paranthasar, weren’t part of the natural order seeking to bring balance to the universe? Was that even possible? Perhaps or perhaps not, he would spend the greater part of his lifetime considering that issue. What he did know, did at some level understand, was the feeling he first shared with that strange man in the wasteland. It was the feeling of being caught in the torrent of fate, his destiny beyond his grasp or control, alone, a part of events whose consequences might determine the future of everything. He was standing in the torrent at the edge of time, alone, always alone, expected to step out into the darkness and somehow know what to do.
As a reader, can you identify with Gutav’s feeling of being out of control, “caught in the torrent of fate”? Is your life more about being controlled than controlling? Is destiny still relevant in the 21st century?
As a writer, do you use the idea of destiny and fate to generate internal conflicts and capture those struggles in your text? What do you think?