I am sure most of us have read one of these stories, they start with a brief scene, and then the story jump’s back in time. Books that end where they begin can be a little hit and miss in my opinion. It’s all down to the execution, along with a smidgen of personal taste.
One’s that don’t work.
For me, the ones that leave me with a slightly disgruntled feeling are the cliff-hanger at the start. Yes, I know all the theories about cliff-hangers forcing your readers to just keep turning the page, but to be honest they just irritate me. Five pages in and it’s just getting exciting, and then it jumps back years. You keep turning the pages, hoping that it is going to get back to the action, but it doesn’t for – ever – and I am afraid I just want to throw the damn book out.
You keep doggedly reading, surely it has to get back to that little teaser sometime soon?
You hit mid-point.
You hit three-quarters!
Do I keep reading, well, sometimes, if the rest of it is interesting enough, but it generally leaves me – disatisfied.
One’s that do work
I am going to use one of my all time favourites for an example Use of Weapons – Ian M Banks
The book begins with a scene. It’s not a cliff hanger, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense.
It leaves you intrigued…
Yes, the difference is subtle, and the scene at the start is fairly short. You know it’s the main character, but as you read the story, that early scene almost feels like a different person, and you are – intrigued – as to what made this change.
It has one of the most awesome endings of any book I have read ever. Yes, that is a pretty bold statement. I re-read the last 10 or so pages about 5 times because I kept thinking (or wishing) I had read it wrong! Now that’s a good book, one that picks you up and takes you somewhere that you really don’t want to go.
At the end it plays out the original scene, and like any true revelation, it all makes perfect sense.
Reading is about as personal as it can get, and what works for one person may not work for someone else, but I do like a good circular story, so long as they get the subtle blend right.