I know I’ve talked about this before, but I have encountered it a few times this week and I’m just stunned at the extent to which it is practiced out there. Of course I’m talking about reading the end of a book before you read the rest of the book.
My discussion about the Nook a few weeks ago prompted a friend to tell me that she also found it a bit more difficult the flip to the end to see if she liked how it all turned out. WHAT!?!?!? And she’s a writer!
This week I have been reading a book called ‘The Well of Lost Plots’ by an author I normally LOVE, and I think with this book he thought it would be funny to write the book without a plot. I got to page 121 and I could not with any confidence say what it was about –I was quickly losing interest. I bemoaned this loudly to my colleagues so one suggested I flip ahead and read the end to see if it was worth sticking it out. Then someone else piped up and said they would never read a book without looking at the end first to make sure they were going to like it.
So poor writers are out there desperately trying to set up red herrings, invested emotion, hopes, dreams and fears for their readers, yet for a big chunk of the population there is no element of surprise. Surely knowing a character is alive in the last chapter would have to diminish your concern when they get themselves into a tight scrape in chapter seven?
This got me thinking, would you ever write a book differently if you knew that the last chapter was going to be read before the first? Maybe that is why there are so many books out there with that kind of meaningless ‘tie-up’ chapter at the end where we see everyone acting relieved and conveniently tying up all the little lose ends.
I don’t think I’ll change my endings, but it is certainly something to consider. We always think, as writers, that you need to grab your reader in the first paragraph, often spending weeks on perfecting it. Maybe we need to think about putting a lot more work into that last paragraph as well!?!