Endings, eh? Following on from Marie-Louise’s post below, I’ve been thinking about endings myself...
We authors of the SAS were having a chat the other day (we meet for a lazy lunch several times a week at a nice little club in
Oh yes – we were having this chat. And one author mentioned that, when reading books, she often reads the first third, then reads the last few chapters, and then reads the middle. This is in order to try and guess at the ending early on, and then see how the author builds up to that climax. Essentially, it’s a professional approach: the writer’s mind always keen to examine how other work is put together. I’m sure it’s not uncommon, either – I know several people, both authors and casual readers, who also skip ahead to the ending before reading the middle.
As someone who won’t even tolerate the tracks of Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ being played out of order, I was slightly shocked to hear this. I struggle to get my head around the idea of doing such a thing. For me, Chapter 11 follows from Chapter 10 as surely as ‘Money’ segues into ‘Us And Them’. If you put the CD on shuffle play, I’m not sure you’re getting what you paid for. To read a book out of order seems even odder. Am I being terribly consreavtvie?
A friend of mine recently read my new book in manuscript, and did this very thing – skipped to the end, and then went back to read the middle bit. I must confess, I twitched. That middle bit isn’t just filler, I wanted to grumble. I didn’t put it in to make the covers a bit farther apart. If anything, I care more about middles than I do endings. That’s where the real book is, in my view. The ending just ties it all off. My endings are usually crammed full of stuff blowing up and all hell breaking loose, but that’s really just me going on a bender after a year of sitting at my desk. It’s not really the story so much as final punctuation.
Do people care mostly about endings? I sometimes wish I could avoid them. Let’s face it, they made a film called The Neverending Story, holding that up to be a good thing. These days I read so slowly, if I love the book, that I might read the same paragraph three times before reluctantly moving on to the next. It makes me look like a remedial pupil to anyone who might be watching, but I don’t mind. So long as it prolongs the experience.
Of course, the ending doesn’t have to be the end. If the book’s good, you can always read it again.