Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Like eating dessert before the meal

By R.J. Harlick

As a writer, what do you make of readers who flip to the end and see what happens last first?

It’s a little like having the lemon meringue pie, profiterole or whatever your favourite dessert is, before savouring the other equally scrumptious dishes of a meal.  It spoils your taste buds. A good meal is designed to gradually build up your taste buds until they explode with the piece de resistance of dessert.

A good book, be it a crime novel or other kind of fiction, works much the same way. Each forward progression of the story line increases the tension until it is released with the grand finale of the ending, leaving the reader with a satisfying sense of completion.  If a reader knows the ending from the start, this is lost as is all the effort the author went to in trying to build up this tension and lead the reader astray.

I, for one, can’t imagine sneaking a peek at the ending before reading the entire book. I will even close my eyes if I accidentally open it at the ending. But that said, I do re-read books, ones I have particularly enjoyed and of course I know the ending at the outset. But usually I re-read them because I enjoyed the journey in getting there. And if a book is especially well-written I will glean more information about the characters and the story with each successive re-reading.

Nonetheless I can’t fault a reader for checking the ending first. Many readers do it because they have difficulty dealing with the suspense that is created. I’m that way with key games of my favourite hockey team. I want them to win so much, that I can’t bear to watch the play-by-play of the actual game. I’d much rather pretend there is no game happening and be pleasantly surprised when they win.  I also understand those readers who are so totally engaged in a series character that they have to assure themselves at the outset of a book that their favourite character survives to continue on into the next one.

As for readers that flip to the end with my own books, I really don’t care.  They are reading the books. That’s all that matters.

And now for the latest happenings in Meg’s world. A little over two weeks to go before Purple Palette for Murder is released in Canada.  In the US, it will be released Nov. 7. But if you are coming to Bouchercon, you will be able to get a copy before your friends and a signed copy at that.


Speaking of Bouchercon, I am on the Friday at 2:00 panel, Mysteries steeped in different cultures. I will also be participating, I hope, in the Speed Dating fun, bright and early Thursday morning at 8:00.  I will also be hanging out in the hospitality room on Saturday at 10:30 and 2:30 as part of the Canadian Crime Writers initiative. 

I'm looking forward to seeing many of you in Toronto!


3 comments:

Paul D. Marks said...

Perfect way to put it, RJ, when you say: "A good book, be it a crime novel or other kind of fiction, works much the same way. Each forward progression of the story line increases the tension until it is released with the grand finale of the ending, leaving the reader with a satisfying sense of completion."

As to eating dessert first, there's a William Powell-Myrna Loy (of Thin Man fame) movie called Love Crazy where they eat dessert first and are considered crazy. So maybe it's not the best plan ;-) .

RJ Harlick said...

Paul, I wish there was some way one could put a real smile into this comment, because that is my response to your comment. A smile. :)

Gram said...

"To each his own"