1. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

    May 21, 2009
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    Starting at the end

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by OurJud, Aug 8, 2015.

    I've seen it written more than once, that starting with your novel's end is a good method, and I would be interested to hear how many of you employ this technique.

    I'm not talking about writing your story backwards (another method I've heard of) but merely coming up with your end, so that you know exactly where you're heading.

    For someone who writes as I do - on the spur and without planning - I honestly don't see how I could use this system. If I don't even know where the story is going to take me, how can I possibly decide on the ending first?
  2. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

    Mar 9, 2010
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    I have three theoretical novels in my head. For the most "writeable" I have a beginning and an end--that's a large part of what makes it writeable. And an idea of the sorts of things that will get me from beginning to end.

    And the whole thing really bores me. I'm trying to force myself to Write The Thing, because there's a tremendous amount that I could learn from finishing it, and I'm confident that I can get interested. I like the characters, I like the situation, and so on.

    But all the same, the fact that I know the ending bores me. I'd like to get past that somehow.
  3. fivetoesten

    fivetoesten Member

    Jul 7, 2014
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  4. John Calligan

    John Calligan Active Member

    Aug 8, 2015
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    I think starting with the end can help you anchor. It doesn't have to be rigid - you can build in wiggle room.

    "The coveted item will be taken to the rooftop where one or more people will try to use it. Mr. X. will never be endangered during the story so that he at least can be there at the end, plus the MC, plus the big bad and other characters if they are still alive. Ms. Q may try to use the object - I don't know yet."

    This way, you always know that the characters see having possession of the item at a certain place and time is necessary. You don't know what will happen along the way, but if you built your characters with the tools they need to be successful and stay true to their motivation, I think knowing the ending can help you see the way.
  5. Daemon Wolf

    Daemon Wolf Active Member

    Jul 18, 2015
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    My view: Make the beginning, make the end. Write the outline. Write the book.
  6. Sifunkle

    Sifunkle Dis Member

    Aug 4, 2014
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    It always disappoints me when a story shows lots of promise, but has a lame conclusion with heaps of loose ends. I think this "reverse engineering" approach helps avoid that: if you have the end-goal down, you can think about exactly what needs to happen to get there. Perhaps you can even imagine a better ending because you're not constrained by what's already on paper. But it's just a tool. There's no reason you can't achieve the same result with plenty of redrafting and editing (I suspect more effort all up, but if you can maintain interest that way...).

    This is a large factor. If you're a devoted "pantser", this won't appeal, as you'll be forced to plan somewhat (unless, as you mentioned, you write the whole thing in reverse).

    I think it also varies with how heavily plot-oriented your work is. This technique might help more for a complex plot, but may be less useful if it's straightforward (e.g. character-driven).

    Edit: Sorry - loaded the page a while back and have restated what many have posted in the meantime.
    Anna100, OurJud and John Calligan like this.
  7. Samson Michael

    Samson Michael Member

    Jun 23, 2015
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    Here and There
    I usually have some inclination on how to end a story when I write. I never write that ending down though. What seems like the right ending when you first start writing could prove to be exponentially different from what the story morphs into. While there are certainly pros to writing the ending of a story first, for some writers, this process simply doesn't work. There's nothing wrong with this, it's just part of each of our unique writing processes. While that theoretical ending could give some guidance, it could also hold a writer back, make themselves feel restricted to what they write for the rest of the story.

    Personally, when I write the ending first, I feel a strange obligation to write the story to that ending, like it's set in stone and can't be changed, although I know it can. For some, that might be okay, for me, it's torture. When I know where a story is going, I find myself getting bored. Usually, I never finish those stories and it ends up in my never ending void of unfinished work. From the perspective of the modern reader, people don't tend to like loose ends, writing the ending first is certainly a good way to get rid of loose ends. I'm not saying I agree with this, of course, I also don't write my stories with the reader in mind. I don't write for publication, I write for my own pleasure, if people happen to like what I write then it's a bonus. If you are seeking publication, and there are too many loose ends, or the ending is too ambiguous, you can always revise and edit later.
  8. daemon

    daemon Contributor Contributor

    Jun 16, 2014
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    I am starting with the ending. In fact, what initially got me interested in creative writing was that I had a certain ending in my mind and I wanted to write a novel to lead up to that ending. I got the idea from someone else, and then I got interested in writing my own novel that would lead to a similar ending. It is an interesting self-sacrifice by the protagonist.

    I have a hard time imagining what it would be like to start with an idea for the beginning of a story and then work up the motivation to carry it forward without a conclusion in sight.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2015
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  9. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

    May 20, 2012
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    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    The end is not really a written in stone idea. It's more vague. Sort of like if you decided to write Jaws. The idea - men hunting a shark. Logically your brain wants to fill in the story blanks and it becomes pretty obvious ( story wise ) to consider the death of the shark as a possibility. How they do that may be up in the air till the end. That's what I do - I think up my story idea, and the characters that will fuel the idea and then possibilities of where the story will go just naturally come to mind.

    I don't always stick with them - sometimes the location is the same but the outcome isn't. For one of my first novels my mc was supposed to get the girl and kill the 'villain.' All on a sea cliff. But in the end the girl is missing and the mc is carted off to a nut house the only consolation is - the villain doesn't know where the girl is either. But it happens in the same location, the sea cliff.
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  10. Sarah's scribbles

    Sarah's scribbles Member

    Jul 12, 2015
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    america. sigh
    Honestly I do, but it's not the end end it's more the moment of empowerment, the character's strong moment. my mind comes up with scenes where someone seems to be dying or powerless in some way and then just suddenly emerges victorious. a good example of this is if I was coming up with harry potter, which I wouldn't, I would probably have the scene in my head in the first book where he had to play chess or perhaps catch the key in the room of keys.

    If you mean more so the beginning with the ending method, for example what twilight does as we begin with bella's death at the hands of the vampire, yet another cliche I might add, then no. I honestly don't use this method and find it very troublesome for myself as I'm constantly trying to rework beginning to meat what the projected end will be and the projected end is ever changing as I write more towards the ending.
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  11. Bryan Romer

    Bryan Romer Contributor Contributor

    Jan 26, 2014
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    Since I write with the plot in mind, it is absolutely necessary that I decide on an end because everything within the story must ultimately lead towards this end. There is a certain amount of wriggle room, but certain critical nodes within the plot and timeline must occur or the story becomes rubbish.

    Yes, I could change and adapt the ending to handle new ideas, but for me that would mean writing a different book from the one I envisaged. That being the case, I might as well keep that alternate story line for a whole other book.

    Imagine writing an Agatha Cristie mystery. Events and clues have to be slotted in at exactly the right place, and the actions of the characters interact and affect the others, so an unplanned changed in one character's actions would basically destroy the plot because it would cascade through the story line, creating contradictory events or events that don't tie in with the others at all. If Hercule Poirot changes his mind and doesn't board the Orient Express, there is no story at all. If he is not in the right place to see triggering events, he might miss the crime entirely, and so on.

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