A friend called the other day. I hadn’t spoken to him in a couple of months and I knew he and his family were going through some difficult times. He wanted to catch me up, telling me “so much has happened since I talked to you last.” (I really did receive this call, but I’m completely changing the nature of the incidents.) My friend began telling me what happened after we’d last talked. At that time, his daughter, Jill, had broken up with a young man who began flaming her on Facebook. After that initial flaming, my friend told me now, the guy started threatening Jill and stalking her. Jill learned that he bought a gun. She thought she saw him following her in his car a few times. Her apartment was then broken into and he left a threatening note behind. She called the police, who thought she was making it all up.
As my friend described what had happened, I found myself on the edge of my seat, gripping the phone and hoping for a happy outcome. Suddenly he skipped way ahead. “Now that he’s in jail, Jill wonders if he’s the guy who shot up this other girl’s car last year.” Ack! He told me the end of the story! The suspense drained out of me. He still had a month of events to describe to me and he’d already told me the end! Now, yes, I was happy the guy was in jail and Jill was safe, but really… Couldn’t he have revealed all in good time? Since this is a real friend and a real-life story about real people, I know I’m a cad for even thinking this way. But it made me think about writing fiction and how hard I work to “reveal all in good time”, to keep the suspense building until the end–and how it makes me crazy to hear from readers who tell me they read the ending first. I would never do this. I want to learn everything in the order the author chooses to tell me. Delicious!
Are you one of those “read the ending first” readers? Why do you do it? Does it kill your enjoyment of the story or does it, in some perverse way I don’t understand, add to it? I’d love to know!