I always begin with a last sentence; then I work my way backwards, through the plot, to where the story should begin. – John Irving (source)
When I first read this, I was taken aback. I’ve often started a story with the idea of one important line. Sometimes it’s somewhere in the middle and often it’s a snippet of dialogue, but most of the time it’s the first line of a story. I haven’t ever started a story from the end. Sure, I’ve got an idea of the ending, but not the last sentence.
I’ve been making a conscious effort to keep a running list of short story ideas. The form doesn’t come easily to me, but the more I read and write I can see how they are helpful in building writing skills and learning how to tell stories. I’ve decided to begin with the ending sentence of the next one as a sort of writing experiment.
Where do you begin writing your stories?
6 thoughts on “Finding the Last Words First”
I searched John Irving and this is the first thing that came up! He’s my favorite novelist. I literally JUST wrote a blog about his oeuvre and its politcal boldness and importance, I’d love for you to check it out! (and my blog in general, of course!)
My novels/stories mull and clank around in my head for 1-5 years before I ever write a word of prose. I’ll take notes on great plot points or events or lines of exposition or dialogue, but that’s how I start–an idea pops into my head and I let it simmer for years =)
I can definitely relate to that approach to writing!
Hm that’s a good idea. Molly you’ll have to let us know how your experiment went,
This would be a super activity for a writing group . . . give everyone the same last sentence and then see how everyone gets there! Thank you for sharing! :)
That would be a fun activity!
It varies from one story to the next, but I can tell you for sure that it never begins with the last line.