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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Start at the End

The secret is to start a story near the ending. — Chris Offut
I really like this quote from Chris Offut.

It's like my screenwriting professor once told me, "Come in a scene late and leave early." I think it's the same mentality. Start so the reader has to think - No. WANTS to think - wants to figure it out. And end the story so the reader feels s/he has done so successfully, and yet is satisfied, perhaps, by the things s/he couldn't figure out that you, the writer explained.

Makes it sound so simple, doesn't it? But we all know it's not. Maybe that's the secret - start near the end - but I wonder where the blueprints are? It's one thing to KNOW something but another entirely to be able to do it.

But as grandiose as it sound, this is what I will strive for in my novel. I don't know at what point I'll accomplish this tall task or if I ever will, but this is my goal. I'm not there yet. I'm a long way from being there. Somehow I feel when I write the ending of my novel, I will know the beginning.

What do you all think about Chris Offut's quote? What ideal do you strive to reach in your craft?

13 comments:

beth said...

Although not exactly on topic, this quote made me think about how the best beginnings come after you know the end. OK, that makes no sense. What I mean is: when I started revising my ms., I had a hard hard hard time with the opening pages...but once I'd really figured out the end and fixed it, it became simple to know how the beginning of the novel should be.

Jason said...

I've heard the same advice. JK Rowling wrote the end of her novel before she wrote the rest, and I think I've heard Brandon Sanderson say the same thing. That's something I'm trying to work on, too.

Sheri said...

Yes, I agree, Beth! At least in theory, since I haven't finished my novel. I am suspecting, though that this is true. Stories are like circles, not lines. THey begin where they end and end where they begin... does that make sense????

Jason, I love JK Rowling tidbits! Thanks for sharing that. I've written the ending of my story too, even though I just said I didn't... But I think because I haven't made a complete connection - written it although the way through - I can't really feel like I have an ending... FOr all I know once I've written all the way through, my ending might change. Gosh, I am not making sense today...

Jason said...

No, it makes total sense that when you get to the ending, it might change. But you have a basic idea of where you want things to go that you can work towards, even if it doesn't stay the same.

Gottawrite Girl said...

Oh I like that... it IS most interesting to just SEIZE into the plot, rather than meander slowly up to the point of anything actually happening... yes!

Thanks, Sheri, and hope you are well.

Sheri said...

Thank G-d I was making sense to someone other than me, Jason! And you did totally get what I was trying to say. So, thank you!

Susan, glad you liked my quote. The quote on your blog is quite a doozie too!

Keri Mikulski said...

Interesting.. This made my brain ache. :)

There are so many times when I drift out of a scene and start thinking about other things while I'm reading.. I wonder if this is why. The circular thing. Great stuff, Sheri.

TJ Brown said...

no offense! I am going to talk to my doctor about it. I am 44:) This has been increasing over the past year, so you're right... I htink they are related.

Teri

Sheri said...

Keri, Hope I didn't hurt your head too much with my crazy thinking! But I do think in terms of circles and I feel like nothing is as fulfilling as a story come full circle. Hey, and that pretty blonde on your blog? Could that be YOU! You're so pretty. Why'd you hide your face for so long???

*HUGE SIGN OF RELIEF* TJ! I am soooooooooooooo glad I did not offend you. This can be a very touchy subject with us gals. I know when my doctor used the M word with me I nearly fainted! But hey, speaking of circles, it’s all part of the circle of life, right…

PJ Hoover said...

It is hard to convince yourself to do this, isn't it?

Sheri said...

No, not hard to convince myself, but maybe hard to acheive. I know this is how I want to do it. THis is how I invision my novel. But I dont' know if I will actually be able to pull it off. I know I won't be able to pull it off in one draft. It will take a few revisions at least! But this is my goal. I just don't see storytelling any other way for me. Start late, end early. Leave them wanting more... That's my goal and I'm convinced. Able to do it???? Not really sure...

Amy Tate said...

Some of the things I've written I have started with the ending. However, I started with the middle in my novel. But maybe writing historical fiction is different. With history, part of the story is already there, and my job is to weave my characters around it. The longer I do this, the more I realize that there is no magic formula!

Sheri said...

Absolutely Amy! If there was a magic formula we'd all be rich and famous! (or maybe none of us would be... except those who dared to break the magic formula...)

“Personal limitation exists only in our ideas of who we are. Give up all notions of who you are and your limitations will vanish.”

- Anonymous