“Oh I always rip out the last page of a book. Then it doesn’t have to end. I hate endings.” –The Doctor, Doctor Who, “The Angels Take Manhattan (7×05)
I don’t hate the endings of books. In fact, my husband often teases me (and rightly so) about my penchant to flip to the end of a book to find out how it, well, ended. Never mind that I wouldn’t have the full thrill of discovery as the story made its page-by-page progression. I simply reach a point where I need to know right now how everything works out. Others can have the suspense and the mystery – I want answers. (Particularly if it is a story about a beloved pet. It’s a rare story where Fido or Fluffy is still alive at the end.)
I don’t recall always being that way. I’m positive there are many books I read growing up where I started at the beginning and progressed in sequential order through each page until I reached the end. But I suppose as I grew older and became busier with school and work and other interests, I lost my patience to allow the story to unfold in its own time and space. And, as noted above, when it comes to a sad ending, I want to be able to prepare myself for it. Or to get the sad part over with so I can focus on and better remember the happier times.
But I am changing my premature page-flipping ways not only to avoid being teased every time I pick up a book, but because of a more sobering fact: I think it’s affecting my writing.
Beginnings and conflict and ideas for endings aren’t too hard for me to come up with, as proved by my many National Novel Writing Month entries. But a common issue in each of the stories is how much I struggle with the middle parts, the areas where characters have to push through their struggles and problems, reach their paradigm-shifting moments, and have it all end in a believable way. That is a real struggle for me. And when I look back over my reading habits, I can see why. I have failed to learn from others how to do it, how to find those “push-and-pull” rhythms as people wrestle with their problems.
So when the urge to flip to the end pulls at me, I have started to learn to put the book aside for a little while. Then I can return to it and properly walk the road the author has laid out for the characters and, in so doing, start learning how to map such roads for my own stories.
Michelle Woodman blogs at This Time Around, often about whatever is running through her brain at the moment. She lives in southern Alberta, Canada, with her husband Jeff, their cat, and numerous fish. You can follow her on Twitter and/or check out her Facebook page to remind her not to skip to the ending of whatever book she’s currently reading.