Shannon Stacey

Peeking at the end of the book

Last night on Twitter, we were talking about ending readers again—those folks who read the end of a book before flipping to chapter one. Which is fine. Really. This is not about anybody doing anything wrong. There is no wrong way to read. People can read any way they want. I only read magazines from the back cover to the front cover. My youngest son is watching the Star Wars saga in reverse order this week, from Return of the Jedi to The Phantom Menace.

But it hit me last night why readers sneaking peeks at the ending makes me a little sad. It’s because, as a writer, the ending is the thing I obsess over the most. It’s the part of the book I lose sleep over. I spend the whole book looking for that…thing. That elusive thing that ties the book together and emotionally resonates with the reader because it’s perfect for this couple. And when it comes to me, it’s a high like no other.

Of all of my books, I have to say the “I love you…I love you, too scene from No Surrender is my favorite. It’s funny and emotional and uniquely Gallagher and Carmen’s. And it calls back to an early scene in the book, bringing the romantic arc full circle in a way that resonates with readers who went along for the ride. Now, if you read that scene first, it doesn’t have the same impact because the call back doesn’t resonate with you. And after you start reading from the beginning of the book, you’ll come across the earlier scene and see where the call back originates and think to yourself, “Okay, that’s where that came from”. And then, when you get to the ending again, the impact of that call back is lost because you already read it.

Imagine I spend weeks or months trying to find a Christmas gift for you. I want it to be perfect. I want it to be you. And when I find it, I’m so excited for Christmas to come because you’re going to love it. But you peek. You still want that gift. You’re still going to enjoy that gift. And I’m still going to be happy I gave it to you. But, on Christmas morning, those few ohmigod seconds of emotional kick are lost. (As a reformed Christmas present peeker, I know this to be true.) I want you to read my books however you’ll enjoy them the most. If that means reading the ending first, then absolutely go for it. Just know that, by peeling back a little corner of the wrapping paper, some of the emotional kick I wanted so badly to give you is lost.

So, are you an ending reader? (And, no, I’m not going to tell you you’re wrong or try to reform you, I promise.) I know there are a lot of you out there! Are you more apt to sneak a peek at the ending of a book by an author you’ve never read?

20 comments to “Peeking at the end of the book”

  1. Jaci Burton
      · March 4th, 2011 at 9:18 am · Link

    Absolutely not. I read from beginning to end. I know end readers explain they don’t want to be shocked by an ending, but if an author ruins an ending, I just won’t read them again.

    I want the surprise of the HEA and I don’t want anything to ruin it for me. I want to the story to unfold naturally for me and I don’t want anything to spoil it for me.

    We argue about this on the Writeminded group all the time lol

  2. Shannon
      · March 4th, 2011 at 9:31 am · Link

    It’s just so hard to have the discussion in Twitter’s character limit without sounding like “you’re wrong” or “don’t do that”, which isn’t my intention at all. Readers should read however makes them happy.

    It’s just, as an author, when I see it talked about, it makes me a little sad on the inside.

  3. LMHowes
      · March 4th, 2011 at 9:35 am · Link

    I NEVER peek, EVER. Takes the fun of curling up and reading to find out…what????

  4. Emma Cunningham
      · March 4th, 2011 at 9:53 am · Link

    Not me. I start at the beginning and read through to the end. How can the ending even make sense if you haven’t read the beginning and middle? How does it in any way tell you if it’s a satisfying conclusion?

  5. Shannon
      · March 4th, 2011 at 10:02 am · Link

    I think, as the requirement for HEA loosened during the rise of chick lit and urban fantasy (for example), readers can’t always trust a book will end happily ever after. As a reader, I get that. But I’m more apt to look for somebody’s who read it and just say “does it have a romance ending?” than peek at the back of the book.

    And if an author’s ending doesn’t do it for me, I just don’t buy the next one.

  6. Blanche
      · March 4th, 2011 at 10:18 am · Link

    I’m an end reader! Not always though! For me if I’m really struggling with a book and thinking about sticking it the DNF pile I might go to the end just to see what happens, if it’s a good ending I’ll continue to read. I don’t end read books by authors that I know and love and trust.

  7. Tina
      · March 4th, 2011 at 10:21 am · Link

    Oh No!! Why read the book if you already know the ending. I lkie the build up too much…

    Confession: Now if the book is moving too slow I might skim a few pages to help move it along. Lol But I definitely don’t want to know the ending ahead of time.

  8. Laura Hamby
      · March 4th, 2011 at 10:26 am · Link

    Depends on the book. I usually read beginning to end. If the story starts to drag for me, I hop to the end to see if it’s worth the effort. Sad, but true. And something I try to keep in mind as I’m writing—don’t GIVE the reader a reason to skip to the end.

  9. Lisa J
      · March 4th, 2011 at 10:55 am · Link

    I was a “sometimes” end reader before I started reading e-books. I would read the first few chapters and then flip to the end. Now that I am e only, I never read the end first. It’s not as easy to flip to the back and then find your exact spot. I’ve found I don’t miss reading the end first,

  10. Lori
      · March 4th, 2011 at 12:31 pm · Link

    I admit to being a peeker. In print. In the book store. Because by the time I get it home and read it, the ending has flown far outside of my ability to remember what I had for breakfast, much less the end of a book.

    And this is actually one area where I prefer print to e. It’s too hard to flip through an ebook to find just the point where you want to start peeking. Plus, you can’t do that in the store before you buy. Which irritates me.

  11. Danielle
      · March 4th, 2011 at 2:02 pm · Link

    Before my kindle, I rarely kept myself from not reading the end. Unless it was a very highly anticipated book at the end of the series, I had no qualms about reading the last page or two… Sometimes I got upset about what I read and dreaded finding “the bad thing” while reading the book after the peek, but I am one of those people that likes knowing what is going to happen before it does. I also like movie spoilers. I read and reread almost every book and movie that I have so I decided that peeking at the end or asking for spoilers is okay.

    Now that I have my kindle however, I am too lazy to jump to the end to peek unless I am using my computer app. I tend to be a lot more anxious while reading and react a lot more and I am still unsure how I feel about that- my family however, would rather I just read the end so that when they interrupt me, I am not so cranky :)

  12. Lillie
      · March 4th, 2011 at 2:11 pm · Link

    I’m an end-reader. Reading the end makes me happy! I do have a few authors that I trust completely to give me a satisfactory HEA *waves to Shan and Jaci* and those I don’t peek on but I always end read on new-to-me authors. Life is too short to waste time reading a bad book ;)

  13. azteclady
      · March 4th, 2011 at 2:31 pm · Link

    I don’t like peeking because it ruins the surprise–and having a HEA or solving the mystery doesn’t mean there’s no surprise to be had.

    However, I confess that there have been a few occasions (can count them with the fingers of one hand) where the author managed to make me feel so horribly anxious about a character or characters, that I had to peek a few pages before the end, to make sure nothing irreparable happened.

    In the end, though, I’m with Jaci. If the author bungles the ending (IMNSHO) then that’s it. I can give second and third chances on writing, characterization, etc. but not if, say, a main character doesn’t make it to live HEA.

  14. Lorelie Brown
      · March 4th, 2011 at 4:55 pm · Link

    Hah! Count me under the forceful e-reformed end peekers. Used to do it, now can’t. :)

  15. Jewell
      · March 4th, 2011 at 4:59 pm · Link

    I’m with Blanche on the fact I will peak if the book is looking like a DNF. Sometimes reads start out killer then reach a point where they fade past my tolerance level. The dastardly, sagging middle.

    And also with Aztec Lady on an author twisting and turning the plot in such a way I just have to peak, even if it’s only a brief scan.

    But as an author, I know exactly what you are speaking of, Shannon. You’ve thought and thought on how to tie it all together. How to find a previous encounter that you can play on to show the entire arc. But if a reader encounters that part first…

    Well so be it, as you’ve pretty much said. So many different styles of writing, and so many different styles of reading.

  16. Shannon
      · March 4th, 2011 at 5:02 pm · Link

    Aha! Another reason to love digital? It’s harder for the end-peekers. :lol:

    And my books will always have a happily ever after. As my youngest likes to say, that’s how I roll.

  17. Jean
      · March 4th, 2011 at 6:32 pm · Link

    Nope. I like to try to figure out the ending as I read. It’s a mystery no matter what the book is. In romance, sure, it’s going to have a HEA, but HOW will that HEA be achieved?

    Did I figure it out? Did the author have a better ending than I foresaw? Was I delighted and surprised at the same time? That’s what I hope for. I also hope to miss the characters when the book is done. I want to end a book wanting to spend more time with the characters. If the author achieves that, it’s a winner.

  18. Ursula Grey
      · March 4th, 2011 at 8:09 pm · Link

    I could not and would not, not ever, sneak a peek at the last page of a book that I’m really into. In fact, if it’s really good, I have to cover the last lines with my hand so I don’t accidentally read the ending! So, no, I don’t do that ~ not ever:-).

  19. ali
      · March 5th, 2011 at 12:37 pm · Link

    i dont usually look at the end of the book but i do usually look at that back covers before buying if it is an author i am unfamiliar with. If the book is going really good and im afraid something might happen i sometimes peak. i just cant control myself.

  20. Karen C
      · March 7th, 2011 at 11:26 pm · Link

    No, I never read the ending first – that, for me, is a definite spoiler! I’m a beginning, middle, and ending kind of girl.

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