I know the ending of the first book I want to write but, I'm not sure how to start it or what will happen in the middle. I know I am completely working backwards on writing a story but, every time I sit down to brainstorm ideas I either find my mind working out details for the ending I have planned or thinking of ideas from other books. How do I fill the huge space in my book to get to my ending point and how do I make sure my ideas are original rather than taking other people's ideas and twisting them?
Firstly, almost every idea - i.e. plot element - has been expressed somewhere before, meaning you shouldn't worry too much about "stealing" ideas. Take love stories, for example. They are always the same: Two people (or more) meet, they take a liking to each other, they go out, they fall apart, and in the end, either one of them is dead or they celebrate a huge wedding. Almost every love story uses these elements. Still, they way these elements are presented varies and this is what makes the respective story individual: Tell a story adapted to a certain problem, and you will create something new. My favourite example of this remains "The Time Traveller's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger, a classic love story that added an equally classic idea - i.e. that of time travelling - and came up with a mixture that was quite original.
Concerning your doing-it-backwards problem, I don't think there actually is a problem. You say that you know the ending of your story. That means you have something in mind that drastically changed (every story is an account of a change). Good. What you could do now is to ask which background is suitable to contrast this change against. How can you show how drastic and important this change was in the context of your story? Once you have answered this question, all you need to do - and this sounds easier than it might actually be - is to tell the story of how the specific change you have in mind is coming about. Take, for example, the story of "Into the Wild". The ending is obvious: A young man leaves society and dies alone in the wilderness. That is quite a drastic ending and one that has the potential to make us think. It can be the core of a good story. Now, the ending is clear. But how do we get there? By answering the question: Why did the young man leave society? What was his life like before he made his decision to go "into the wild"? What was it that he couldn't bear any longer? When and how did he realize he was unhappy? You could keep working your way backwards through these questions, or you could reduce it to the one I posed at the beginning of the paragraph: Where does the change come from that you want to depict?
Overall, I think your approach is the right one. Having the ending of your story in mind is a warrantor for keeping you on track while penning the story. You have a clear aim and can work towards it. In my experience, it is infinitely more complicated to write a story that revolves around a general topic but does not have a clear aim.
If you are interested in textbooks covering the structure of stories and methods for character development more in-depth, I can recommend the books by James N. Frey, that I enjoyed a lot: How to write a damn good Novel, Parts 1, and 2, as well as his account on the Hero's Journey. Also, many authors seem to enjoy Christopher Vogler's account on the monomyth as well.
I will offer a word of caution.
Whilst I do like Filip's answer above, and would have said everything the same, I feel like I must provide this footnote.
In the context of this question being about how to write, I have a method that I will share with you.
I have done a the exact same thing before, beginning a story with the ending, and realized that I could not find a beginning that fits, or even makes sense. I have spent many hours/ days trying to shoehorn a mediocre story into a great ending.
But once I started writing the story, it just didn't feel quite right. It wasn't the story that the ending deserved.
So I would recommend this: shelve it.
I know, it's not the answer that you wanted to hear, but if you are really excited about the story ending then it deserves a good story to get there.
Write your ending down, and then file it away somewhere. I have done this with many things: beginnings, middles, endings, themes, interesting characters, and have them all sorted neatly.
And one day, it might be tomorrow, it might be two years from now, you will think of a story that you want to write, and you won't have an ending, and you'll look through your endings folder and you will find this ending, and it will just fit.
The story will elevate your ending, a lot of details may even likely change in it, (characters and locations etc.) but you will realize that this is the story that the ending was always supposed to have.
But don't try to create a Frankenstein's Monster of a story.
Some of the first things that I ever wrote that I was really excited about still haven't found a home, and others have changed over time beyond all recognition, but the root of that original good idea that you have still exists within them.
Hope this helps.
Easy - write the ending first, dude!
This will benefit you in two ways:
- Your ending will be complete (theoretically, one third of your story)
- You will no longer experience a ton of ideas about your ending the moment you take up a seat to begin writing your story as you will have already written the ending
Naturally, you will almost certainly encounter some ideas about how to modify or change your ending, but the first draft is always about getting ideas down. If you can manage writing the ending first, then continue reading.
Still here? Awesome. Next, write the middle part:
- Which events built up to the awesome ending that you have just written? Did people die? Did nobody die? How many rifle-yielding felines did it involve? Whatever it may be, just concentrate on HOW it went down!
Once this is done, you have your middle section - easy, wasn't it?
Next, consider how it all came about in the first place. Consider the following for your beginning:
- Who is the main character(s) and why should anyone care about them? Are they a high-achieving stud-muffin or a lowlife, yeller-bellied scumbag who nobody gives half a hoot about?
- Next, what did they do before all of this awesomeness unfolded? Did they work in the clichéd bookstore for their doddery old aunt/grandmother, or were they a middle-aged person struggling to make ends meet when suddenly something sudden happens and suddenly, the sudden thing changes everything all of a sudden?
Finally, stick these three parts together - consider writing them in different documents - and boom! A story.
Chances are that you will despise your first draft - we all do because the time:effort ratio is usually heavily reduced (something like 100:0.1). But fear not, for you will be somewhat inspired and pleased with yourself for having finally put your book together - the next stages are tweaking what you have to make it even more awesome than ever imaginable!
I once heard it said that the ideal ending is both completely expected and completely unexpected at the same time. Your job throughout the story is to build the audience's desire for the ending you will give them, without giving away the details of how it will happen.
If you really have the perfect ending, then the beginning will be implicit in it in some way. Just ask yourself what conditions will be the same at the beginning of the story, and what conditions will be the opposite? What travels in a circle in your plot, and what travels in a straight line? What has to change to transform the conditions of the beginning to the conditions of the end, and how will those changes take place?
To give the same advice in more concrete terms, consider it in this way: Every trip that ends needed to begin. Every adult was once a child. Every pair of lovers were once strangers. Everyone who is dead was once alive. Anyone who is wise was once foolish. Anyone who has learned was once taught. Many who are rich were once poor, and who are poor were once rich. Look at the important conditions of your ending, and consider their oppositions or antecedents.
Think about the ending, write it down. How and what will the characters do to get to the ending? Start in small steps; first figure out the name of the main pov, and gender. What does this charicter do? Say in a——fantasy are the characters just a thief, mage, dragon, knight? Do these jobs define and limit them? Or are they more then a title?
Same with other titles like valley girls, geeks and such. Don't think of the characters in those terms or they will come off as caricatures.
Where do you want to start the story? In a town, outside, between realitys, in space, in a cave? Its up to you, but start somewhere. This is a first draft and the most important thing to do is just start. It's perfectly fine if later on it doesn't work anymore. All that matters is that it got the story underway.
You can make an outline, use no outline, or make a simple outline to stay focused on the ending, but other then that let the characters decide where the story goes.
I think most people here forget how daunting it is to be just starting. My advice is not to pile too much on at once right now, as you're just staring to get to know your characters.
Choosing what writing point of view, you'll be using for the story is critical for how the overall feel of the story. There's First person, third person, deep third person, and many sub-Povs of these. There is also Omniscient and second person pov, those two are not recommend as they are hard to write well.
After that first chapter is done study up on another pov and write it in another pov style. Find the one that works best for the story, not just the one you like the most. And be sure to save them in a separate file, so you can pick the best one. With this first chapter consider proof-reading it for errors and submitting it a critique site, like critique circle or find help in the writing clubs on Wattpad.
As you keep, going with the, story the plot line, the theme, and sub plots will show more and more. All if this needs to work towards the ending. Starting with the ending is like making a pineapple up-side-down cake. It's delicious.
You'll see ways to connect them back to the end when revising.
Have fun and don't stress it too much, it will get there.
One final note sometimes what the writer wants isn't what the characters want.
My answer is just a bibliographic reference:
Edgar Allan Poe, The Philosophy of Composition. (2011, September 3). In Wikisource . Retrieved 07:20, October 27, 2016, from https://en.wikisource.org/w/index.php?title=The_Philosophy_of_Composition&oldid=3351218
By explaining how he conceived his story poem "The Raven", Poe makes the point on starting from the end (and from the emotional effect he desires the reader to receive).
Here then the poem may be said to have had its beginning - at the end where all works of art should begin - for it was here at this point of my preconsiderations that I first put pen to paper in the composition of the stanza:
I have just finished a story which i have been working on for months; i had a beginning and an ending but needed to find the story that connected those two parts. It came through time. I agree in principle with the idea that sometimes we need to shelve stories and have a rest from them, work on something else and return later. it never fails to amaze me how effective this can be in shedding light on the dark areas where you got stuck previously.