STARTING AT THE END.

STARTING AT THE END.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever read about writing stories is to start at the end.


Write the closing chapter. The last scene. The final piece of the puzzle. It doesn’t matter if you have NO idea what happens in the beginning…because beginnings are easy. Ends are difficult!


Lets take INCEPTION as an example. If I gave you this line “Sharing dreams is a common occurrence, allowing for the extraction and implantation of memories”, you can go off on a ton of really wild stories and tangents…but it will take a while to get to a solid spine of a  story.

Lets try it like this then.. “He turns around…looking at his children…not knowing if he is still inside a dream, but also not caring.”

Suddenly the conclusion to our tale is solid, and the spine of the story is immediately more structured, because instead of flailing around endlessly, we have a solid anchor.

Its all good and well to have an idea for how to write a story (or at least an idea for one!), but one of the most challenging things is coming up with that ending. Well, here is an idea for those of you who are having some difficulty with this.

FINDING AN ENDING.

One of my all time favorite SubReddits is http://www.reddit.com/r/shortscarystories
J
ust browsing around there is enough inspiration to create 1000 different stories.

Here are some of my favourites

…now just imagine if these were your endings, what kind of tales you could spin leading up to this point:

http://www.reddit.com/r/shortscarystories/comments/1kworh/catoptromancy/

She’s there again. Hovering scant inches from outside my window. Making faces, looking in. I can’t stand it and she isn’t the first.

Mother and father passed away long ago, long before I can remember. All I have to keep me company is my inner voice, if I can quell its anger. Some days it’s easier than others, some days no one appears at the window at all. When they do, though, there’s no one to tell. No one to cry to about the scary things mocking me through my window.

She’s doing it again. She’s lighting a candle. She’s looking in again. She’s saying my name. She won’t shut up. Maybe I’ll make her. Say it one more time bitch. Say Bloody Mary.

http://www.reddit.com/r/shortscarystories/comments/1js1p6/1001/

“The Moores are having a baby.”

I glanced up from the table, surprised. “They got the okay?”

My husband nodded. “The paperwork came in today, so I heard.” He lowered his eyes in sorrow. “Poor Joanna.”

“She’s only 53,” I breathed.

A bead of sweat dripped down my brow, landing on the cool, concrete floor of the bunker. I tried to remind myself to be thankful for this place, this concrete tomb, but it grew more difficult each day. Perpetuum Technologies, the company that sprung up just in time for the largest nuclear war the world had ever seen, had designed the vault to sustain one thousand people for as long as it took the surface to be inhabitable again.

Exactly one thousand people.

Poor Joanna indeed.

http://www.reddit.com/r/shortscarystories/comments/xfmxt/floaters/

When his little brother scooped his own eyes out, Danny didn’t feel guilty. It wasn’t his fault little brothers are naturally stupid. Danny was just doing what big brothers had always done; he was playing a trick. They’d been lying flat on the grass and tossing tennis balls up and down when Jacob had asked him a dumb question: “Danny, what are those things in the sky? If I stay still, I can see them moving around.”

Danny knew about eye floaters. Everybody knew about eye floaters. But his little brother didn’t. Danny immediately saw his opportunity. “Oh my god, you can see ghosts, too? I thought I was the only one!” From then on, it was easy. Once Jacob got good at seeing “ghosts” in the blue sky, Danny trained him to sit very, very still and practice until he could see ghosts in the walls, or drifting in front of the window. Danny would point one out, and Jacob was convinced he could see it, too.

He’d given his brother plenty of time to catch on, hadn’t he? But after a couple weeks, Jacob freaked out and had to be rushed to the hospital when he maimed himself. Danny felt a little guilty at first. Then they let him in to talk to his brother for a while. “Why did you put your eyes out, idiot?” Danny asked him softly. Jacob turned his head, as if he could see right through the bandages, and Danny felt a chill.

“I didn’t,” Jacob whispered. “Ghosts don’t like to be seen, Danny. They can’t stand it. And Danny…” he reached out to grip Danny’s arm, “…be careful. They know you can see them, too.”

DISCLAIMER!


Now obviously I’m not saying rip these amazing authors off, but using stories like this as a springboard and starting point is fantastic when you are longing for some inspiration!

-Chris

  • Jade Falcon

    Considering your game is at least partly story-driven, i really recommend you to read this book by Stephen King:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Writing
    A lot of hints and tricks about dialogue structures, story, plot, characters-developing, style and so on. Besides, King is well known for his contribution to the horror genre, so i think it kind of tune in with what you are doing despite the difference in the medium.
    Doing solo-game-developing myself, i really understand your “amalgamation of different skills” comment early on, and i know how vital it is to master different – sometimes even contradictory – skills to produce a game single-handedly. In order to do so, one really has to be a sort of jack-of-all-trades all-rounder to some extend, which is itself a fascinating and satisfying process of constant self-expansion and personal developing both in skills and in weltanschauung.
    Anyway, hope it will be useful in enriching your game and help you as much as it once helped me (even though i was reading the book not in English but in Russian, still it was really useful. Might be even more so for English-speakers for self-evident reasons).
    Wish you all the best, your game looks splendid!
    Best regards from Russia.
    P.s. I hope my English was not too broken.

  • http://www.stasisgame.com Chris

    Hey Jade,

    Your English is perfect! Certainly better than my Russian. 😀

    I will take a look at my local book store for that book. Its very much appreciated!

    -Chris

  • Brakespear

    I dunno…

    Having written a massive novel (shamelessselfpromotion: google “Sol In Extremis”), I can only partially agree here.

    The beginning, I find, is actually the single most difficult point in any story. Because it isn’t actually real.

    Unless your story begins with the creation of the universe, it is never truly the “beginning” at all; rather, when beginning a story, you’re trying to pick the right moment at which to join the narrative.

    You can try to cheat it, by beginning with the ending, and then using a flashback to show how you reached this moment… but then you still have to decide how far back the flaskback takes you. And if you use the flashback opening, and begin with the end, you have to be all the more secure in your narrative symmetry – there has to be a really good reason why the ending is bound to the beginning, so that once you’ve come full circle, the circle is indeed a circle, and not merely a wobbly square of contrivances.

    The ending, conversely, is a comfortable place to be. It’s the end of the line. It’s like one of those algebra problems back in school – you know exactly what number you need to reach, and the trick is to make sure that your equation results in that number.

    In that regard, the ending is certainly a good place to start, I’ll agree there.

    Tell you what though; when it comes to writing a big story, it’s helpful if you know a bit of scripting. I recently taught myself javascript, in order to create a text adventure based in the world of my book… and there are parallels.

    In most scripting languages, you have to remember to close your brackets – if you begin something, you have to end it, or the script won’t work.

    In a story, the same is true. If you introduce a threat, you have to see that threat through to its conclusion. If you introduce a bomb, it has to explode, be defused, or serve as a deliberate connection to subsequent stories. If you leave a deliberate loose thread, you have to know where it’s going (if you call a function from another script, you have to be sure that the other script exists, and that the function you’re calling is the right one).

    And similarly, you have to optimise your story, just as you optimise your code. If a narrative component serves no purpose, cut it. If the purpose of a narrative component is duplicated elsewhere, cut it, or cut the duplicate. If you declare a variable, use it (don’t tell everyone that your character has 1 eye if this fact never actually has any bearing on the plot).

    Gotta be merciless, or the world you’re creating will keep on growing and you’ll drive yourself utterlyADGHRHIHJJIJSIS*%^T£HGEGJDDJJWWWWWWW

  • jolly

    Great sory great game! we follow you!