The most important beginning, and one of the most important parts of story-telling, is the very beginning of the tale. There is a reason for this. If the very beginning of a story fails—the reader stops reading.
Otherwise, endings generally are more important than beginnings.
What do I mean when I talk about endings?
I mean the full scope of story-telling. The macro and the micro. The macro includes the end of a novel, or the end of a series; but it also includes the end of a chapter.
The micro is the end of a sentence. The end of a paragraph. A joke may have only three lines—but the ending must nail it.
It’s difficult to surprise someone in the beginning. They’re learning about your characters, the world, the situation. But it’s easier to surprise someone with an ending. Like a magician, the writer can lead the reader down the path; shaping, and molding the experience, inferring that the story will head one direction, but underneath, building the reasons and leaving clues that it’s not really going to end like that. And it’s magic when it works. The reader is delighted.
Why are endings so important?
There are many reasons why endings have power and importance in writing and literature.
One reason is because it will be the last chance to make an impression, to leave the reader with something memorable, that last tug of emotion or impact to make the reader feel—something.
It has been said that beginnings make you want to read the novel, but endings make you want to read the next one.
Endings have less work to do than beginnings and they also have a different job—they don’t call it a climax for nothing.
Beginnings are the news—it fills you in on the details. Endings are your favorite t.v. show—you can’t wait to see the next episode.
Beginnings always start off cold. They have a job to do. They have less room to make an emotional punch. A beginning must introduce: who is in this scene, when and where does the scene take place, what’s going on, how have things changed since the last chapter.
A beginning starts at a standstill, gains momentum through the middle, and then delivers a climax in the end.
Endings don’t have the same responsibility. They don’t have to explain or set the scene. They don’t have to guide or build. The endings job is to deliver.
Endings benefit from the job the beginning and middle do—and that’s why they are important in the macro and the micro. The shackles are off and they can run, and soar, and dive, and leave the reader breathless and wanting more.
Stop and think about your endings—do they jab? Or do they sizzle out with little enthusiasm?
Every chapter is a mini story. Set the scene with the beginning. Raise the tension through the middle—then end with a climax, or a cliff hangar, or a wallop!
Make use of your endings! Push the reader into the next chapter.