WRITING: Walking Away – Thoughts on Ending as a Beginning

I once belonged to an online critique group.  I gradually left the group because except for just one or two members, they appeared to be tied in to the beginning rules of writing, adamant about sticking to them and disdainful of any who crashed beyond the borders.  One of the major rules I immediately broke with my submission was starting the story out at the end.  To them, there was no arc, ergo, no reason to read the story.

To me, there is purpose to revealing an ending right up front and one of them is to ask not what happens next, but how did it get to this?  Thus, an excellent chance to expose character and interaction.  How a series of simple events can lead to an explosion.  A boom is the result of a wick, a stick, and a match.

There are really several ways that the ending served as appetizer behooves the story.  Sometimes it is just to diffuse a situation and bring it back up again–extreme foreplay, perhaps.  In some instances we can carry the story a bit further than the climax to not end just at the beginning/end, but to provide a resolution that results from that major event. 

If the opening scene holds impact, it may interfere with the following narrative as the image remains fixed in the mind.  I try to make the story powerful enough to overcome that image, to make the reader forget that brief introduction so that it’s not merely a completed puzzle, but so it can emerge again with full force.  Not an easy thing to do and I don’t believe I’ve yet accomplished that with this particular piece.  One method is to build back up to the moment; another is to lull the reader onto a path that doesn’t appear to relate unless one is reading closely enough to pick up on what should be subtle hints of direction.

Breaking the rules of writing is a fun thing to do; but it takes two things: first, knowing the rules, and second, having the skill to know how to go about it successfully.

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