Friday, May 16, 2014

Endings First

Yes, I admit it. I'm one of those people: I read the ending of a book - almost every time without fail - before I read the beginning.

I began doing this without realizing it, far back in middle school, I think.  Then one day, I came to the stark observation that not everyone reads the ending first!  It was shocking. I hadn't known that.

I felt guilty for awhile, thinking that perhaps I wasn't doing it "quite right," and so I tried to be a proper reader, starting on page 1 and finishing with "The End."

It didn't work. For better or worse, I reverted to my criminal ways. But the effort was useful to me because I questioned why, in fact, I am drawn to reading a book backwards. And I think the main thing is this:

If a story ends well - not necessarily happily, but well - I am willing to slog through the rest of the book. If it doesn't end well, it {usually} isn't worth reading. For me, I can think of maybe two books with bad endings that are worth reading, whereas I can think of dozens with mediocre beginnings and shaky middles that finish well and are worthwhile as a result.

Knowing this has helped me as a writer because I recognize that I must end the story right.  And that "right" might not make everything sparkle with fairy dust. The lead character might still die. That's life, folks. But, for me, the ending must provide some hope - and that must not be just an earthly hope.

I'm writing the ending for my current project either today or tomorrow. Like The House of Mercy, this story has a somber tone at times, yet I want the book as a whole - and especially the ending - to display the quality that the unicorn's name hints at in L'Engle's A Swiftly Tilting Planet: Gaudior - "more joyful." In that book, Gaudior is a creature of The Old Music, the music which "all the stars sang together."

And isn't that the point of true story-telling? To share in the joy of our God's great story? To take part in the ending which is also a beginning? To put all the little pieces He has placed in our hearts into the puzzle of His Whole Story and to one day rejoice with Him in the eternal Now?

C.S. Lewis so beautifully put it in The Last Battle:

“And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”  


What about you, friend? Do you ever read "backwards?" What do you look for in a good ending?


  1. I've read the end of a book first before, but probably not in many years. I enjoy being surprised at the end. :) Your logic makes sense, though! There are too many good books out there to waste time on a mediocre one, so if there's a clue you may not like the book, no sense in investing time in it!

    1. I agree, Jennifer: There are too many good books! :-) Though, I suppose that's not a bad problem to have! Thanks for dropping by.


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