Every story has an ending, a finale, or a denouement. It’s the feeling that everything is wrapped up in a neat little bow, the threats defeated, and the main character has grown and learned from their trials and tribulations. What the reader started with in Chapter One is a far cry from where we are as The End approaches.
Starting a story can be a challenge. Ending one can be equally challenging, but it has the potential to be easier to write than the first chapter of a story. So, what if you wrote the big finale first and worked backward?
Let’s talk about it!
The End is Inevitable
At some point, you will be writing the final chapters of your book. If you are already in the drafting phase, you have an outline detailing or sketching how the narrative will go from start to finish. You have the basics down, but you can’t get into the opening chapter even with the outline.
Give yourself permission to skip to the end.
Does the finale of your book excite you? Can you envision how all the pieces of the story’s puzzle come together in those final chapters? Good. Then start there. Pick a point toward the end of the story and write until you get to the last word.
You’ve now laid out the foundation on which the rest of the story can build.
What happens before to lead to the finale? And before that? And before that?
Does the finale alter the events, locations, characters, or choices you sketched in your outline?
If so, go back through your outline and fine-tune things.
Now you know where all roads are leading. It’s time to examine the first chapter and determine where your main character begins their journey.
You may have to change a few things, or you might have to gut the entire beginning and start over, which is sometimes part of the creative process. Knowing your story’s direction and end is essential. It lets you know what your main character is moving toward and whether or not they achieve or fail at their primary goal.
I enjoy writing the finale first, even in draft form. I like to see where I take the characters and how the conflict is resolved. It can give me insights into how the characters can grow and develop throughout the story and allows me to examine how their arc begins based on where it ends.
Writing Exercise: Look to the Movies
Find a few movies you’ve never seen and watch the final fifteen minutes. Now, based on that information, write a quick paragraph about where you think the main character’s journey began and what may have happened to lead them to their current situation.
Then, watch the movie and see if you were right, close, or way off in your assessment.
The ending of a story is a key piece of the narrative puzzle. If you’re having trouble developing a solid beginning, work on the finale and move backward to see how events led to the ending you wrote.
Doing this has helped me develop stronger character arcs and decide on better starting points for my characters in several scripts and stories I’ve written.
Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!