Friday, April 26th, 2013

Writing Prompt: Starting from the End

TypewriterI had lunch with a writer friend yesterday, and as usual, we talked shop.

I finally asked him if he wouldn’t mind looking over a short story I’m writing, because I seem to have written myself into a corner. It’s science fiction, which I love reading, but never seem to get around to writing.

Absolutely he said yes, but then he offered a nugget of advice while plotting: write the last line first.

His method is to write the last line, ask himself how the characters got to that point, then ask how they got to the point preceding that, and so on.


I’ve never suffered from “writer’s block” because (as I tell anyone who asks) I always “know where I’m going” when I’m writing. How can you be blocked if you know what’s coming next?

Starting from the end is the nth-most point of this. Now, why didn’t I think of that?

(Thanks, Carl!)

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Write a poem, a short story, a scene or vignette by writing the last line first. Think: how will this end? And start from there.
  • Think of two story/scene/poem endings, then think of how they each begin. Switch the beginnings of each idea and then write one of these ‘twisted’ stories.
  • If you’re having trouble thinking of endings, here are a few ideas you can steal (re-write them once you get to the end!):
    • Like thee, may New Switzerland flourish and prosper–good happy and free! – Johann Wyss, Thw Swiss Family Robinson
    • “Now, that’s something like! Why, it’s a million times better than pirating. I’ll stick to the widder till I rot, Tom: and if I git to be a reg’lar ripper of a robber, and everybody talking ’bout it, I reckon she’ll be proud she snaked me in out of the wet.” ~ Samuel Clemens, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
    • Then he closed his eyes and humbly surrendered his vanquished throat to the comfort of the blade. Miguel Torga – The Bull, from Farrusco: The Blackbird and Other Stories
    • I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before. ~ Samuel Clemens, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
    • In this vessel, after a long voyage, I arrived in England, June 11, in the year 1687, having been 35 years absent. ~ Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

Good luck!

Photo by | Dreamstime Photos