John Irving said he needs to know the last sentence of his stories before he can start them. They give him a target to aim for. That makes sense, but as I began a new short story earlier this week, I started to think that Irving’s logic is in reverse.
I need the first sentence, something to build off of. The last sentence is always a problem because it’s the culmination of everything that came before it. And even if you’re a plotter and got your story roughed out on note cards, the finer details of the story – tone, specific events, little hints planted earlier, etc. – might not match up to that perfect finale.
Put another way, Irving’s method is like building a house before laying the foundations. I’m not saying he’s wrong. What works for him works for him. I’m just saying that I don’t understand how you can expect to reverse engineer from a single sentence.
I guess John Irving and I could settle the matter with a wrestling match. On second though, scratch that. Irving may be in his seventies, but I’m pretty sure he could still kick my ass.