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The "stretch in between...is the hardest to do anything with" is doctrine that applies to fiction writing as much as it does to life. With the statement "[plots] are just one thing after another, a what and a what and a what. Now try How and Why" Atwood is solidifying her case that it is not the ending that matters, it is how we, or the characters get there. The ending is unimportant because no matter how you slice it, "John and Mary die. John and Mary die.