1. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    Work from the end?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Carthonn, Apr 21, 2010.

    I've been thinking about writing and strategy. One thing I notice is when I have an idea is that I really do not have an ending. I feel like this is the most crucial part. The impact of the resolution can impact the story as a whole, especially the beginning.

    I remember when I used to write papers in school. I would not start with an opening paragraph. I'd start with the middle with an idea of the conclusion in mind. That way at the end I could bang out the opening paragraph without it limiting what I could write about or include.

    So my question is, do you ever start writing your story/script/novel from the end/conclusion and then work on the beginning and middle?
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    no, i don't...

    but that doesn't mean someone else can't... or shouldn't...
     
  3. runaway_lighthouse
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    runaway_lighthouse Member

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    The way I begin an idea usually depends. If it's something of a short length, like a poem or short story, I'm usually just struck by a theme or an idea, and then I run with it until I feel satisfied that I've explored it. If it's something of longer length, like the novel I'm currently working on, I think it may be a poor decision to begin writing without at least a vague concept of the conclusion. You end up writing aimlessly, and you may not even figure it out until you're already 30,000 words in.
     
  4. Aeschylus
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    Aeschylus Contributing Member

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    A story has to flow. If you start from the end, that flow will not be present. Even if you spend a lot of unnecessary time fixing all the seams when you read it back the correct way, that subconscious flow of thought will not be within the story. Forgive me, I may be wrong, but it doesn't sound like it would ever add up to the effect of a normally-written story; subconsciously, the reader will probably notice inconsistencies, and even if not, it will be a different story than it would if you wrote it start-to-finish.
     
  5. Sparrow
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    Sparrow Member

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    Personally, I like to have at least a vague idea of where I'm going with a story. But everyone is different. For example, I've read that Stephen King wrote Misery with only a vague idea of the story line and in the end it turned out differently than he had thought it might. So I say do whatever works best for you and good luck. :)
     
  6. Halcyon
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    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that you definitely limit the potential of your story by committing to a particular ending right from the start. What you need is an idea of where the novel begins, and a reasonably well thought out plot, along with good characterisation.

    I always advocate letting the story go off in a different direction if, for example, you reach a certain juncture in the tale, then realise an alternative direction that seems better to you than your original idea. But if your ending is cast in stone, your capacity for doing this is compromised.

    So, plan your story well, but leave room for adjustments. You just might end up with something more compelling than what you started with. :)
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    huh?... that makes no sense to me... did you mean to write 'from the end'?
     
  8. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    Yeah his post confused the hell out of me.

    So do you all have a set climax and resolution set right from the beginning?

    I.E. Evil twin brother defeated by the hands of slightly less evil twin in epic battle of Tic Tac Throw. Earth is saved.

    Or do you go by:

    I.E. Twin brothers. Climax? Not sure. Resolution? No sure. We'll see how it goes.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    At what point in time? When you first begin imagining a story? Or when you sit down to pen the first paragraph?

    Quite a few times my first inspiration comes from the climactic scene. So I begin thinking, "How did I get here?" In that sense, I sometimes build a story backwards in my head before I start writing.

    However, that isn't how I write the story. I don't begin writing until I know where the story starts, and where it is going. I don't have every intermediate detail planned out, and that is another reason for writing forward instead of writing a final scene and iteratively prepending the scenes that lead up to it. Causality works forward in time, and relatively insignificant details may have consequences to consider later in the story.
     
  10. Gingerbiscuit
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    Gingerbiscuit Senior Member

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    Some people do write without having any idea of where it's going to end. They just sit down and type and don't stop until they reach a promising destination. The positive to this is that plot becomes very organic and twists and turns just happen naturally. The downside is that you may find yourself writing forever with no real idea of when you might finish. If it's a first novel this is quite demoralising and it is also quite dangerous as youcan't guarantee the quality of the ending.

    However if you do have at least a rough idea of where ytou are going to end the story you at least have something to aim at. You can orchestrate the events surrounding the characters. Obviously the downside to this is that the plot can come across as being too contrived and you have to be careful not to clumsily reveal a twist a little too soon.

    Just realised that was a little off topic. Personally I wouldn't necessarily work entirely from the end of the novel but I would have a rough idea of where it will end when I get there.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i don't always know the exact ending when i start writing, but if i don't, it'll come to me at some point...
     
  12. Mila
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    Mila Member

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    I agree, this is exactly my approach - and it keeps my interest in the story alive because then I write wondering what exactly is going ot happen next. If I already know the end, why should I write the rest of it ? ( As I only write for myself ). Considering I read the last few pages of books directly after the blurb on the back, that's a bit of a contradiction ! ( well I need to know if the ending's going to suck before I invest time in reading it, haha ).

    That said, I have written the very end scene, but that's not the conclusion of the plot, I still have room for manouevre on that.
     
  13. Lankin
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    Lankin Member

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    When I am writing a non-fictional text I mostly do exactly that -- I write the conclusion first. I might alter it a bit as I go along, but I need to know the target I am heading for. This also helps me to stick to the given topic.
    I cannot do that writing fiction. It would feel unjust towards my charaters. They should have real choices at some situations that emerge, or at least that's how I feel.
    Of course I am defining a brief outline of the plot, though I keep several possible endings in my head.
    But even if you define an ending as simple as:
    "Yes, they find the virus -- designed to destroy mankind -- in a laboratory in xxx" -
    it is not that simple on a closer look. They find it. All of them? Is somebody dying or even sacrificing himself? Why? And furthermore... They find it. And now? If they destroy it, no vaccine can be derived anymore. If they keep it -- who shall keep it? Which government? If any? Can they be trusted? So for me, even if the "saving the world"-business is done, there is still a great deal more to it :)
     
  14. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    I skip all over the place when I write. I think up some tidbit or interesting part from the beginning, and write that down.... later on I get a middle part, then one from the end..... really, my mind bounces all around, and I write down every idea so I don't forget it. Then I take the ideas, arrange them, put them in order and fill in the blanks. Works very well for me. :)
     
  15. rory
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    rory Contributing Member

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    When I start planning a story I start from wherever the initial idea/inspiration hit me, then ask pointed questions to get the general idea of how it came to this point and where it could go from there (also why). Within that time frame I've discovered I decide where the "start" and "end" points are.
    Then I can start writing. I might start at the begining, then write a scene from the end if I get too bogged down. If I think up some witty dialogue, I'll write it out and see if it'll fit in someplace. Like a work of art, you don't often utterly complete a single portion at a time. You build it up as a whole, tweaking here, adding a touch there and often going over the entire piece again until it's what you saw in your head.
     
  16. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    I do kind of the same thing. Usually when I first get an idea, I sketch out a basic time line and come up with how I currently envision the story wrapping up. Then I start writing from the beginning (or what I believe to be the beginning...a lot of the time I end up adding stuff to that part) and jump around from there, depending on what parts my muses want me to work on.

    I've tried writing from beginning to end, and I just can't do it. And I've tried writing with a concrete ending in mind, and that throws me off too.

    So I guess to wrap up this not entirely on topic post, I would say that while it can be helpful to have an idea of where you would like the story to end, I wouldn't come up with anything concrete.
     
  17. Peerie Pict
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    Peerie Pict Contributing Member Contributor

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    I used to think that planning was key but I'm beginning to feel bogged down by it. I'm sure by spending too much time thinking, and not doing, I'm taking away inspiration and spontaneity.

    It's that fine balance between flexibility whilst avoiding aimlessness that needs to be struck.
     
  18. Mantha Hendrix
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    Mantha Hendrix Contributing Member

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    I personally like to have a plan... but I'd rarely have the ending set out from the very beginning... the novel I'm writing at the moment for instance. It's ending has mutated a number of times throughout the planning
     
  19. ♥Underground Author♥
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    ♥Underground Author♥ New Member

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    I don't actually write the ending but rather a paragraph of the events and how the story should end. If his post was mistaken then the dude who said 'If you start from the end, your story will never flow' is right. I like to write from start to finish because when I write ideas pop up as I go and I might want to add them into the story.

    Hope I helped... :)
     
  20. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    I think my problem right now is that I'm not 100% sure about my ending but I want it to be good. I've started writing summaries of key scenes that will reveal character strengths and show their depth. I think this is actually helping in developing the ending a bit.

    I guess I'm realizing it's good to have an ending mapped out but you must let it evolve as you develop other sections of the story.
     
  21. MissBelle
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    MissBelle Member

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    Ha-ha, I read this thread because I do the exact same thing. I usually don’t do this when I write fiction though. When I do this while writing a paper or essay, it is to make writing it easier and making the whole work be more unified without having to do as many drafts. (At least that is how it works out for me)

    When I write fiction I usually start at the beginning and wind up at the end. I don’t always even know how I want something to end until I get there. But everyone is different and there is nothing stopping you from trying this out.
     
  22. Pandora.Writing
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    Pandora.Writing Member

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    Normally I have my idea and then work with it. It takes me a while to find out the exact way I want to start it, but then I keep writing until the end.

    However, that isn't the case with my most recent story. I'm still on the planning stage, but somehow I've managed to expand it far too much without knowing exactly how it all starts. I basically wrote the plot line backwards and gave myself ideas. I didn't even know it was heading in that direction. Basically once I found out where I was going, it allowed me to find out where I'd been.

    Depending on what kind of story it is and the way you're choosing to write it can impact on whether it needs to be written backwards or not. Ultimately, it is the author that creates it, and whatever method they feel is best should be what works for them. There is no one guaranteed method of writing. Everyone is different.
     
  23. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wish I could do that with essays, back to the original post. :p I always work in the same way, which is just starting writing, and seeing what happens. Usually the moment anything happens I pretty much instantly know how the story will resolve, but I never plan it or write it down. I plan all the middle stages and leave out the ending. I've written 3-4 plans for my current main novel, and they all stop just shy of where I know the plot line I jumped onto in the opening chapter is going to resolve. I don't want to know. :p

    With essays, it's easier to explain why: I'm just scared of concluding my conclusion before I know what argument I'm going to take. I know which angle I'm coming from, and I can lay out every single paragraph and say "here I look at that, here I analyse that" and even knowing what the thrust of my argument is, I'm too scared to commit to the ending paragraph until I know what WORDS I've used. I'm very very conscious of the flow of the essay and the conclusion always wraps up because of the very specific things I wrote in the essay. I learn AS I write - many ideas and theories come to me as I'm typing. If I write an essay slowly or in fragments, which I've sometimes done in desperation, it just doesn't work.

    Same for stories -I have to have that start to finish flow. I can go back and edit as much as I like and change anything AFTER I've written a couple of scenes ahead, but I can't do anything that comes ahead of where I currently am. The only exception I've ever had with writing is when I can write flashbacks or other such out of sequence scenes ahead of time.
     
  24. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    I usually have an idea going round in my head for a week or so. Once I have the end, I know what I aiming for and start writing. I can change my mind about the ending, but this rarely happens.
     
  25. caimomile
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    caimomile Member

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    My general strategy is to conceptualize the story as a whole first and write a very basic outline that includes the beginning the end and most of the crucial points. The only drawback of my method is that I sometimes feel a little constrained by the pre-made summary.

    Anyway, I guess you could start at the end. Writing a story is pretty much like making a movie. You could start "shooting" the end first (just like what they id with the Machinist, starring Christian Bale) and finish at the beginning.
     

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