Saturday, August 27, 2011

Let's start at the very...ending

It was a bit weird, I'll admit that, but I was young then...

Back, in the days before these days, in a place before this place, my father and I were talking. He spoke of Asimov's Foundation Trilogy (for there were only three books in the series back then - told you it was a while ago.) I suspect now that Dad had read of the republishing of the series, which is why it sprang to his mind. He'd read them when they were first published.

I was fascinated by what he told me of the books, of how Asimov had, seemingly, mapped out an enormous sweep of time and written stories set at different points along the timeline. But these three, in my Dad's opinion, stood far above the others.

I took myself off into the city, seeking out the series. Sure enough, in the vibrant Science Fiction section of one of the main bookstores, I found "Second Foundation". Imagine my dismay when I discovered, prior to buying, this this was the third in the series. The other volumes were sold out.

Even then I was an "instant gratification" kind of guy. So I bought it. And read it.

A week later I bought "Foundation and Empire". And read it.

Finally, "Foundation" - bought and read.

It was a fascinating way to read the trilogy. The third book spent the early part dealing with The Mule, this mutant who had come out of nowhere to upset the Seldon Plan. Yet I had to imagine how bad this was, and how bad things had become, because I hadn't seen that part of the story yet.

In the second book a character rages against a "dead hand" controlling events. I, as the reader - the out-of-order reader, had the same feeling. An almost mythological being, Hari Seldon, seemed in charge of the overall direction of events - and nothing the actors on the stage could do would change this. And then there appeared The Mule, and all the concern at the beginning of the third book fell into place. 

Finally I "met" Hari Seldon in the first book. It felt strange to see the man after seeing the impact he'd had on events so far in his future. Such a towering force contained within the frame of a man. It was interesting to hear him speak for himself, rather than his being "intoned" by acolytes hundreds of years after his death.

I've since read the trilogy a number of times. All the "correct" way - "Start at the very beginning..."

But I've never lost the feeling the first reading gave me. The having to figure things out, to attempt to create what had gone before, the history, as the characters knew it. They weren't there when it happened either, they just knew what they'd been told.

It was a great adventure to try discover the world in which they lived, and how it got that way. It's a feeling that's never left me.

I'd love to write a story that way. Backwards. It's been done - the movie Memento does it well.

My main problem with trying to write a story that way I usually write stories. I tend to start at the beginning, and write till I reach the end - being surprised (if I'm lucky) a few times along the way by the twists and turns the story and the characters take.

To begin at the end, and have the story flow backwards...would that mean I'd have to know everything up front?

Possibly not.


  1. I write in a linear fashion. That's how my brain works. I try to impose order on chaos, I suppose...OCD for short. ;)
    Reading a trilogy backwards, for me, would be tantamount to peeking at the last page of a book to see the ending before its time. I'd burst into flames. (remember the OCD)

  2. @Laura - bursting into flames is not advised, 'twill singe the carpet. I also write in linear fashion, but it could be fun to reverse that and write backwards. I'll let you know if I ever try it.

  3. I was also intrigued by the way Memento was done, but write the same way you do. Maybe some day I'll try it anyway. I'm betting that it could be done in the same way and then things could be modified and lined up if something came to you to change. Sure, it would likely be FAR harder to write that way than if you plotted it out from beginning to end and went from there, but I think the result could be quite interesting and possibly worth it.

    BTW, I've only read Foundation and Empire and never even found the others! And that was probably about 20 years ago. I'd still like to get all three and read them from beginning to end.

    Tina @ Life is Good
    and I are joining forces in a followup A to Z challenge. We're going to visit and comment at each of the original A to Z participants, and we hope you'll join us!

    Shannon @ The Warrior Muse

  4. @Shannon - I agree, it might well be possible to write "back to front" rather than "front to back", and stitch/trim any rough edges when finished. The results could be, as you suggest, interesting.

    I like the idea of re-visiting the A to Z challenge group - I'll be happy to join in the fun.

  5. An interesting post Kevin - I am quiet intrigued by that idea of writing a story backwards. I have a friend who always writes the ends of her short stories first and then writes the rest. I think knowing the end (which I guess is what plot is all about), makes writing the whole a lot more easier. Me, most of the time I have an inkling of what the end is - I'm talking about short stories here - but sometimes I just write and see where it takes me. Now that's an adventure too! ^__^

  6. It is always embarrassing for me to admit I never read the the Foundation Trilogy. As you know, I'm a bit intimidated by huge books. Besides, they hurt to hold up while reading in bed. Now that I have a Nook maybe I should give them a shot.

    I don't always write in linear form. Sometimes I write little vignettes in no particular order and then work on weaving them together into a larger whole.