The end is the beginning

I have a confession to make: whenever I have a book in hand that I’m not sure about, I’ll flip to the end to see if it goes happily ever after.

It’s a habit that for years earned me, at best, bewilderment, and at time outright derision. “You’re ruining the story” people would say, “why read it if you already know how it’s going to end?” But that, to me, was a price I was willing to pay.

When I was in middle school, I went through a horror-novel kick. Stephen King, Dean Koontz, John Saul – I devoured these books like crazy. But in doing so, it gave rise to a terror all its own, something I’d never realized about myself: I hated sad endings. I wanted the hero and heroine to win, save the day, destroy the bad guy.

That didn’t always happen, and as that phase (quickly) passed, I learned that other grown-up books also had similarly not-so-great endings. It was then that I started reading from the end first, making sure good triumphed and evil was vanquished. There have only been a handful of books I’ve read where I suppressed this urge, wanting to enjoy the process without “ruining” the final climax and resolution. The last Harry Potter book was one I remember, which was a series that really captured my heart. The final book was more of an “event” in my mind, the ending of an era, and I wanted to drag that out as long as I could.

So what does this have to do with writing? Well, I’m one of those people who needs to know the end of my story before I start. Years ago, I could start writing and just GO, get out thousands of words without knowing anything except interesting characters. But as my craft evolved, I started wanting something to strive for, a place that I knew would be The End. I’d do sprawling epics that meandered all over the place, and eventually lose interested in these stories because I had no idea how or where they ended.

There is a series of videos on YouTube by Dan Wells that I often go back to for inspiration. He explains structure for story, both for plotters and pantsers, and I think it’s a useful discussion for writers to see.

10 thoughts on “The end is the beginning

  1. I’m not a writer but as a reader I want to know that the book will end happily so yes, I to will read the last chapter before reading the whole book. I usually wait until I have read a 1/4 of the book but sometimes I will do this first if the synopsis has me confused. I will say that e-books tends to keep me from this – I just don’t jump to the end unless something happens in the story and I get concerned about the ending I want to have happen. I have friends who call me a “book cheater” when I do this but I don’t care – I still want to know how we get to the end so I always read the entire book but sometimes you just need the reassurance of what you will find on the other side. Glad I’m not alone.🙂

  2. Lol… I do the same thing… Only cuz I hate cliffhangers and hate waiting months for the next book to come out so I will usually begin reading it when the next book is close to release…lol

  3. Since I’ve had my Kindle I don’t read the last chapter any more. Instead I rush through the book to get to the end and then re-read it so I can go slower and savour every moment at my normal pace. Sounds mad but it works for me

  4. I love these tidbits about you! It makes reading your stories so much more personal. I also love happy endings as life is not always like that and when I’m immersed in a book or story its like a holiday. Having said all that, I really hope that your story of Jeremiah and Lucy is a happy ending!

  5. Interesting.

    My first brush with the story that doesn’t end happily was Bradbury’s ‘Martian Chronicles’. Many chapters that built investment into the character of that chapter and then killed off that character.
    By the last chapter when it seems like there’ll be a happy ending, you don’t know for sure but then there were children involved and it was written in the 1950s.

  6. I do the same things… otherwise i rush it, dont sleep to know what happens… that doenst make good grades! So i find a sommary or read the last chapter or so just to calm me down😛 Im the same with tv show, i just need to know, NOW

  7. to be totally honest with you, I did that with a couple of your kindle books, the last 2 castaway books, I am such a massive die hard Jeremiah and Lucy fan, and I always need a happily ever after. I love your books, and I have faith in you, that you will deliver a true love story, can’t wait to read this next book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. I will start a book and if I am invested I will read the last chapter-even with my old Kindle where I have to figure out how far it is to the end. In the late 70’s a series of mystery books came out with the last chapter uncut to prevent you from going to the end. I cut them anyways.

  9. I think it’s a wise idea when writing a series. I’ve come across many books that were dragged out with no direction, losing sense in the process. With a solid ending in mind, you can fill in as many details as you’d like while directing the story to its conclusion..

    I love Castaway and so far I could see it’s headed somewhere, but I know I’ll be heartbroken because I’m on Team Lucas. The suspense is worth the experience though! Can’t wait for the end!

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