Bridging the Gap (Working Backwards)

Sometimes while writing, we know where we eventually want to end up in the story, but get stuck on exactly how to get there. I know my plucky heroine escapes the cyborg ninja, but how? I vaguely know the kind of triumph I want my characters to experience toward the end of the story, but what exactly is this and how does it come about?

As I’ve said in some of my previous blogs, Creativity is Problem-Solving; asking questions, coming up with answers. In keeping with this knowledge, I’m going to impart wisdom I’ve learned from playing the violin; working backwards.

Often violinists will learn and practice a new song from beginning to end. We learn the first few measures and lines, become comfortable with those, and move on until we’ve learned the entire song. The problem with this method is that the beginning, which has been practiced hundreds of times more than the ending, is the best part.

But as we know in both songs and stories, the ending is the most important part. How do we fix this? Practice backwards. Play the last few measures, repeat. Add in the previous line, repeat. Do this until you get back to the beginning of the song – because if any part shines better than the rest of the song, we want that to be the end.

I do both backwards flow-charts and lists. Basically, start with an ending you want; “Victorious, the plucky young hero is invited to join a secret organization.” In a flow chart, you circle this and draw a small line leading to your next point.

Remember, creativity is coming up with questions and answers. Your next question is this; “What has to happen in order for this to be possible?” In my example, the answer requires her to be victorious at something. So my next step could say, “The heroine defeats the cyborg ninja and thwarts his evil plan.” Repeat. What has to happen in order for this to be possible? The ninja has to be on the verge of success. That, and, we need a better of an idea of exactly what his evil plan is.

Continuing on with the list, or flow chart, will help us discover an evil plot for him!

Keep in mind that while outlining and drafting, anything is subject to revision in further drafts. This is a good thing. It’s like those practice sessions on the violin; the ending will become better and more polished as you continue through your drafts.

4 Responses

  1. Nisa on October 20, 2011 @ 3:08 pm

    You are so very organized. Sometimes I think it’s more fun to come up with the ending or the middle first. 😉

  2. Heather Muir on October 20, 2011 @ 11:20 pm

    Endings are such a problem for me. I must try this method for NaNoWriMo. Thanks for all the great advice!

  3. jakesprinter on October 24, 2011 @ 8:56 am

    Nice Blog thanks for sharing

  4. Samuel Loveland on October 24, 2011 @ 9:30 am

    Thanks for your comments guys! Nisa, I’m not all that organized really, just the ACT of doing something organized seems to help me channel all my chaotic creativity just a little better. =D

    Heather – we should do some kind of “accountability” thing via Twitter, where we help spur each other on for NaNo!

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