Rhonda Herrington Bulmer
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April 7th, 2015
What kind of a person reads the end first?
by Rhonda Herrington Bulmer

End page

According to my sixteen year old daughter, who happens to be an avid fiction reader, only “lame-o’s” read the end of the book first.

So Mom is a lame-o.

Happy endings are very important to me. (Yes, yes, I know. Don’t get your knickers in a knot. Or your panties in a twist/wad/bunch, whichever you prefer—I do realize that life is full of disappointment and unhappiness. I’ve had my fair share.)

What precipitated this blog is my recent dive into the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. I’m coming in a bit late to the game, since the first book was published more than 20 years ago and the author is still working on the ninth and final tome. Currently, I’m reading book four, Drums of Autumn.

I am not normally a reader of the historical romance/bodice ripper genre, but I have to admit that the complex and melodramatic tale of Jamie and Claire Fraser has really sucked me in. And so I read obsessively, but not before I check out the end of each book so I can mentally prepare myself for a tragic ending that might be too painful to experience. If it’s really bad, I may choose not to read it at all.

My daughter recently caught me doing this. She was scandalized, as are many of my professional writer friends and other acquaintances who love fiction. I guess most people don’t want to spoil the surprise.

I don’t do it all the time, but I do if I think I am going to care a great deal about the main character(s), who might go through terrible things. I know I will want the very best outcome for them. Because I become the main character, you see. I’m there, seeing and feeling it all. Is this what’s called being empathetic? For instance:

–I cry at sentimental commercials.

–I cringe at certain scenarios on television, particularly sitcoms like The Middle, if I feel the situation comes way too close to reflecting my real life. (The kind of funny that hurts a little bit.)

–I cover my ears or shut my eyes during TV situations which may involve embarrassment, misunderstanding or stupid behaviour, mostly because I myself often feel misunderstood, stupid and/or embarrassed. This also goes for real-life people who are sharing embarrassing stories with me around the dinner table, incidentally.

–I’m a recovering perfectionist and hate to make mistakes. It could have been so much better if you’d just done the right thing in the first place. (Ding, ding, ding, ding! That’s the psychoanalytic bell ringing.)

On the other hand, as a writer, I do a lot of plotting and outlining and I tend to analyze any plot as I’m reading it anyway, so why should reading the end first be a big deal?

I’ve given up telling myself it’s-just-fiction-and-it-didn’t-really-happen-and-what-am-I-so-upset-about. Not gonna change.

I know certain things in life are important to me: to always look for the hope, forgiveness and redemption in any situation. A smattering of wry humour is nice, too. What else gets us through this life?

So writer friends, please don’t think too badly of me. No matter how tragic your story is, I can go with you all the way to the end, as long as I know it ends well. I might not like where you take me through the middle of it, but I’ll go. Just don’t leave it bleak and awful at the end?

If you do, in the words of Jamie Fraser, “you’ll be tearing my guts out, Claire!”

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