Begin at the ending : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread

I am tryng to find a quote by Poe in which he states something to the effect that when writing a story an author should begin with the ending and then work backwards. Mystery writers refer to it often, but I have never read the exact line or its context. Thanks so much.

-- Anonymous, January 05, 2004


perhaps you mean this:

...where is the ingenuity of unravelling a web which you ... the author) have woven for the express purpose of unravelling?


-- Anonymous, January 21, 2004

The quote above is from "The Philosophy of Composition" (April 1846). Don't know if this is the part of it you're looking for, but "Phil. Comp." starts out:

"CHARLES DICKENS, in a note now lying before me, alluding to an examination I once made of the mechanism of 'Barnaby Rudge,' says — 'By the way, are you aware that Godwin wrote his 'Caleb Williams' backwards? He first involved his hero in a web of difficulties, forming the second volume, and then, for the first, cast about him for some mode of accounting for what had been done.' [...] "Nothing is more clear than that every plot, worth the name, must be elaborated to its dénouement before any thing be attempted with the pen. It is only with the dénouement constantly in view that we can give a plot its indispensable air of consequence, or causation, by making the incidents, and especially the tone at all points, tend to the development of the intention. [...] "I prefer commencing with the consideration of an effect. Keeping originality always in view ... — I say to myself, in the first place, 'Of the innumerable effects, or impressions, of which the heart, the intellect, or (more generally) the soul is susceptible, what one shall I, on the present occasion, select?' Having chosen a novel, first, and secondly a vivid effect, I consider whether it can best be wrought by incident or tone — whether by ordinary incidents and peculiar tone, or the converse, or by peculiarity both of incident and tone — afterward looking about me (or rather within) for such combinations of event, or tone, as shall best aid me in the construction of the effect."

-- Anonymous, January 22, 2004

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