by Raelene Gorlinsky
From Running Hot by Jayne Ann Krentz:
She turned another page. "I already know how it ends."
"You read the ending first?"
"I always read the ending before I commit to the whole book."
He looked at her, baffled. "If you know how it ends, why read the book?"
"I don't read for the ending. I read for the story. [...] Life is too short to waste time on books that end badly."
Ms. Krentz's character and I are completely in sync. Yes, I admit it, I am one of those people who read the ending first. Well, I don't read it first. I generally read a chapter or two at the start in order to find out what the story's about and who the main characters are, then I read the ending, then I read the rest of the story. People who don't do this find it appalling and inexplicable. "But you're ruining the story! There's no suspense left. Why bother to even read the book if you already know how it ends?"
It's the journey--the story--that makes the destination worthwhile, all the experiences and excitement of the trip. But first you need to want to get to that destination. The most lovely drive in the country is no fun if you know you're on the way to the dentist.
Face it, for most fiction genres we already know basically how the book will end. The bad guys will get their comeuppance, the lovers will have their happily-ever-after, the mystery will be solved. So reading the ending first isn't totally cheating, it's just reassuring oneself that the destination is good and is worth the time spent on the trip there.
So besides my musing on the subject (and interest in hearing how many others read the ending first), what's the point of this blog post? Well, we harp a lot on how important the first line or paragraph is to grab the reader. And many writing classes talk about how to fix your "sagging middle". But don't forget the importance of a satisfying ending that carries the excitement and emotion and action to the last word of the book. If the last chapter is slow or confusing or just drags on too long after the climax, end-first readers like me aren't going to bother taking the journey of your story.