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The last shall be first…

November 8, 2008 by in category Blogs with 5 and 0
Home > Writing > Blogs > The last shall be first…

When my first book, Whose Lie Is It Anyway?, was published, one of the earliest recipients of a newly minted copy was Karina Bliss, fellow-Superromance author and a wonderful friend of mine. I phoned her on the day I guessed she would receive the book I’d sent. You know, just to say, hi, how are you, anything interesting in the post today?

“I got your book,” she said.

“Oh, really?” Quiet pride bloomed within me.

“I loved the last line,” she said. “Absolutely loved it.”

Wow! Not only did I write a book, but it was so good, Karina had already finished it! “Thanks,” I said modestly.

“I can’t wait to read the rest,” she continued.

“Uh…excuse me?”

Yes, dear reader, it turned out that my friend had flipped to the last page of the book and read the last line first.

I have one word to say on the subject: Why???

Since then, I’ve met quite a few people – lots, almost – who automatically read the last page of a book before the first. As a writer, this causes me anguish. I slave over each book for months, and the last page is a culmination of the story that hopefully pulls together the story theme, the events, and the characters in a way that’s satisfying to the reader. How can said reader possibly get that satisfaction without reading the book?

As a reader, the last-page-first philosophy bemuses me. Doesn’t knowing the end ruin the story? Sure, when you read a romance novel you know there’ll be a happy ending that involves the hero and heroine getting together. But it’s the how and why that make the story unique. I don’t want any clues to that before I read it on the page. I like to finish the book on an “aaah” note of satisfaction. I don’t think I could do that if I’d already read the end before I started.

Am I in a minority here? Do millions of readers prefer to read the last page first? Let me know where you stand on this important question!
Abby

5 Comments

  • Anonymous
    on November 13, 2008

    Hi Dane, thanks for coming by. I guess it’s the difference between liking surprises and wanting something to look forward to. Does reading the end ever make you decide not to bother with the rest of the story?
    Abby

  • Anonymous
    on November 13, 2008

    I am sorry to admit, but I read the last page and even the last chapter first sometimes (although this only applies to fiction, non-fiction, I read straight through). I need to know the end, and with so many books with surprise endings, it makes the “when does that happen” part a climax or at least a very exciting part for me. I am not a writer unless you include the Dear Diary or blog I keep, but I understand your frustration, just never thought of it before. But don’t feel too bad, because when I watch a movie, I am always asking someone who has seen it “What happens?”.

  • Anonymous
    on November 8, 2008

    Okay, I have to protest; I had already read Abby's manuscript in unpublished form and told her it was all brilliant.
    But yes, I loved that last line and read it first in the printed version (just to make sure it was still there!)
    Having said that I do read last pages sometimes and I'm trying to give it up.
    In romances you know it will end happily anyway so you're not spoiling anything per se; I guess what I'm checking for is transcendence. Did the writer deliver on the book's promise and move me. IE: is it worth investing in the whole book?
    In other fiction, particularly murder/suspense I do it to prepare for bereavement. How attached should I get to this character…if they're not going to make it, I'll hold something back. (Yes, a wimpy reader).
    But I am getting better. G>

    Karina Bliss
    Romantic Times Top Pick! Second-Chance Family, Harlequin Superromance, Nov 08 release.
    http://www.karinabliss.com

  • Anonymous
    on November 8, 2008

    Hi Marianne, I guess your buddy had the right idea – she was tempted but she knew it was wrong! 🙂
    Abby

  • Anonymous
    on November 8, 2008

    Abby,
    I’m with you! I don’t understand why anyone would read the last page first.

    I actually had a buddy in high school who would staple the whole last chapter shut, so she wouldn’t be tempted to peak. She was shocked that I wouldn’t even think of being tempted.

    I really don’t get why. Someone explain!

    Marianne

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