Saturday, September 07, 2013

Scanning the Ending

A few weeks ago, Charles Gramlich said if he doesn't finish a book, he sometimes scans the ending. I rarely do this but I did do in recently. The characters were in such dire straits, and I do mean all of them, I wanted to see if any landed on their feet.

Do you ever do this if you don't finish a book? Because to me it means that the plot has intrigued you on some level. So what put you off then? For me with this book, it was just too depressing. Sometimes the plot was fine, but the writing was not. I know several women who always scan the ending first.

What about you?

18 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - I've done that a few times here and there. But usually I don't, I'll admit. Unless I'm really pulled out of a story for whatever reason, I usually try to stay along for the ride.

Kieran Shea said...

I sometimes employ speed-reading techniques to skim, but if the book is insufferably windy I just bail out altogether.

Makes me think of what Ken Bruen said once--

"God, man, get on with it!"

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sometimes they get on with it and that's the trouble.

George said...

I've never ever gone ahead to read the ending of a book I was reading. Never will. It just feels wrong to me. However, Diane reads the endings first all the time (it's her only flaw).

Anonymous said...

So Diane is like the Billy Crystal character in WHEN HARRY MET SALLY?

Jackie does it sometimes - usually when it's a weak or boring entry in a series she's reading she will skim through the book quickly and check the ending.

Very rarely I've done it. The one occasion I can recall at the moment was in a series I generally like a lot (I won't mention which) but a book I disliked intensely. I knew the main character wouldn't be killed - she's the star, right? - so just skipped to the rescue and denoument.

OK, it was the S. J. Rozan book where Lydia is being held captive the whole book. Just not for me.


Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

Very seldom, but I have done it--usually when a book is simultaneously badly written and intriguingly premised. It doesn't happen very often, but when the set-up grabs me but the writing is so awful I can't make it through, I'll read the last chapter or so, just to see how things are resolved. Most if the time, though, if a book doesn't engage me, I don't care how it ends.

Deb

sandra seamans said...

I usually do it with whodunit mysteries, especially when I think I know who the guilty one is. I always go back to find out the why.

Sue Grafton gave away the killer in the second chapter of one of her books - I haven't read another one since. I like to be kept guessing to at least the middle of the book.

pattinase (abbott) said...

The more I think about it, I do it only when I get nervous about the direction the book is headed. And only if I don't intend to finish the book. Phil sometimes reads a book inside out. I never do that.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Patti, I have never scanned the endings and I'll finish a book no matter how mentally crippling I find it. I call this trait the OCD of books.

Kelly Robinson said...

My grandmother always read the endings of books first. I never understood why.

I always feel compelled to finish a book I start, especially now that I review most of what I read. I want to be able to support my criticism. Because of that, I try to do my homework before I even start. That said, I've quit a few that were too terrible to even care about the ending.

Brian Busby said...

Funny you ask, Patti. Just this morning I was reading the jacket flaps to a novel, Frontenac and the Maid of the Mist, in which the copywriter does the disservice of outlining the entire plot, including ending.

"The pen picture that he [the author] paints of the girl being swept over the brink by the restless tide is one that will make a deep impression on the reader..."

So, of course, I had to find the "pen picture". There is was on the very last page. It was even better than promised, so much so that I couldn't help sharing it on my blog.

Um, but other than that... no, I never scan the ending.

pattinase (abbott) said...

HA! There is such art to writing reviews and blurbs that tell enough but not too much.
I had a friend who finished every book until she came to one a year or two when she couldn't.Liberation day for her after that.

Chris said...

I can't think of a specific example, but I'm sure I've done it. And I've done the occasional "drive-by" reading that Master Shea describes, when something is irritating me, just to get to better parts, but that doesn't happen too often either.

Ron Scheer said...

If I lose interest in a book, I don't care how it ends.

Charles Gramlich said...

Part of it for me is that I still want to have the basic gist of a story, even if I may not be enjoying the tale itself well enough to read the prose.

Cap'n Bob said...

Never. I am made of sterner stuff, a man of high moral fiber, a true believer in the role of the reader vis-a-vis the work.

I used to do it with biographies, but then I figured out that they all ended the same way. The subject died. I stopped reading them.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Not always. I have read many bios of people still alive.

Al Tucher said...

I'm with Deb on this. The good premise/bad writing dilemma will make me skip to the end.