Foiling "last page first" readers

Astro Pen

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I had a girlfriend once and if she picked up a book she would read the last page first.
This was head bangingly annoying to me.
"Why?" I'd ask.
"Because I want to know how it ends to see if it is worth reading."
To this day it serves to remind me just how diverse our readers ways with books can be. Worse, I discovered, asking around, that she isn't the only person who does it, not by a long way.
So my question:
Do you end on a "punch line", for lack of a better word, or do you obfuscate to avoid "auto spoiling" reader behaviour?
 

Dan Jones

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Bizarre behaviour! It's almost childlike; my two girls, when really small, wanted to know what happened in films to decide whether or not they'd want to watch them. My elder daughter's eight now and has pretty much grown out of it, but it's interesting to note that kids like to know the ending (ie they need to know it's a "happy ending") before investing in it.

RE; your ex, what I don't understand is: how on earth can you understand the ending just from reading the last page, without any of the context? I'd have thought it's essentially useless, unless you're literally just trying to find out if the main character's dead or not? In which case, what difference does it make?

In any case, if were trying to flummox the reader from gleaning the ending from the last page I'd probably use a dual/split timeline narrative, where the book ends in the middle of the timeline, but the story's end has come somewhere in the middle of the book. Which, incidentally, is what I'm doing in my WIP - hurrah!
 

HareBrain

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RE; your ex, what I don't understand is: how on earth can you understand the ending just from reading the last page, without any of the context? I'd have thought it's essentially useless, unless you're literally just trying to find out if the main character's dead or not? In which case, what difference does it make?
I think you can find out more than mere survival from the last page -- you can judge roughly what kind of state they end up in. And I can increasingly identify with that, to be honest. Who wants to emotionally invest in a character's journey only for it to end in misery? When I was young, it wouldn't have bothered me, and I might even have welcomed it as edgy or gritty. These days, with me in my jaded near-dotage and the world in the state it is, it's nice to know you're not going on a journey with just a ton of grief at the end of it.
 

nixie

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I've never went to the last page first, for me it would seem like a pointless exercise.
I used to flick through books by authors I didn't know and read a random paragraph to see if it would appeal. I've stopped doing it, doesn't really help.
 

CupofJoe

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I've done it with one book series.
As a kid I was given six books in two linked trilogies. I read the first trilogy and sort of liked it, but wasn't sold on it. I picked up the last book of the second trilogy, read the last few pages and saw that the MC was still alive and nothing had apparently changed. I decided not to read any of the later books.
I can understand wanting to know the general tone of a book or film before investing in it. At times I'm looking for mental candy-floss, other days it is hard-core all the way. But I do like a bit of notice. At least with films there is an age rating on them that may give you a hint of what is ahead.
 

Astro Pen

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I've never went to the last page first, for me it would seem like a pointless exercise.
I used to flick through books by authors I didn't know and read a random paragraph to see if it would appeal. I've stopped doing it, doesn't really help.
Yes, I tend to do that. A couple of toe dips to test the water.
It is easy to write a rocking opening but I like to know whether that quality is maintained or things start to 'sprawl' later.
 

Wayne Mack

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My expectation for novels and any other longer form story is that it will have a conclusion followed by a denouement. Reading the last page should not spoil the conclusion. I would probably not enjoy a novel that heavily depended on a reveal on the last page; the last page, probably the last chapter, should tie up loose ends, but will not reveal the conclusion of the main plot point.
 

tinkerdan

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Probably for those who do this--it is no different from looking for the expiration date of something before you buy it.
Oh dear, that expires tomorrow--this isn't going to end well.
 

mosaix

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I think I’ve mentioned on Chrons before a lady in the reading group I belong to. She always reads the last few pages of every book first.

A few years back we had a murder mystery that included, at the end, the first chapter of the authors next book.

Needless to say she was somewhat confused.
 

paranoid marvin

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I've never read a book from the back page first. Tbh if I know the ending, I'm unlikely to buy it in th first place. Funnilly enough I used to read magazines from the back page forward. Perhaps this comes from reading newspapers with the sports headlines staring on the back page. Apparently there's quite a lot of people who read magazines from the back cover forward.
 

Steve Harrison

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My wife does this with thrillers. She loves the unfolding of the story, but can't handle the suspense, so she reads the last few pages.

Fortunately, I still love her...
 

Parson

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For years my wife did this with romances. If they didn't wind up married and in love she didn't want to read it. She still reads romances all this years later, but she's learned that the kind of romances she reads always end up that way, and she's very happy.

I've never read the ending first (or at least I don't believe I've done it), but I have much less tolerance for books where nothing is resolved and all looks dark and ugly from beginning to the end.
 

Juliana

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I don't 'spoiler' books but I occasionally do it with films (read the plot online before watching!), especially if it's one I'm emotionally invested in. I did it for Avengers Endgame, for instance, because I wanted to be able to work through any main character deaths before watching...

This obsession with avoiding "spoilers" seems to be a recent thing. The prologue of Romeo and Juliet announces they both die at the end!
There's a YA book by Adam Silveira that's literally called 'They Both Die At The End'! ;) You go into it already knowing it's the two characters' last day alive. A nice little subversion.
 

Phyrebrat

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Ah, behold the myth of control. Both on the reader and writer's behalf...

When you finish your book - and offer it to an audience, it is up to them how to consume it. If your emotional investment in how they read it is so overbearing you don't want them to read the last page, you'll be disappointed. Everyone's different. Your job is to write the way you want, theirs is to read the way they want to.

Thinking about these things is ... mmm I don't want to say megalomania or narcissism, so I'll go for 'precious' :D
 

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