“I formed a number of rationalizations. It would get me fit after years of waddlesome sloth. It would be an interesting and reflective way to reacquaint myself with the scale and beauty of my native land after nearly twenty years of living abroad. It would be useful (I wasn’t sure in what way, but I was sure nonetheless) to learn to fend for myself in the wilderness. When guys in camouflage pants and hunting hats sat around in the Four Aces Diner talking about fearsome things done out-of-doors, I would no longer have to feel like such a cupcake. I wanted a little of that swagger that comes with being able to gaze at a far horizon through eyes of chipped granite and say with a slow, manly sniff, “Yeah, I’ve shit in the woods.” P. 4 , A Walk in the Woods.
Bill Bryson, I love you. Any book about hiking on a trail through the woods for weeks on end, the history of salamanders and botany, and the horrors of industrialization and flawed conservation, and still make it to the end, is a good book. I’ve just finish A Walk in the Woods.
It is humorous, educational, but the thing that I wanted to look at as a learning writer is this idea of how beginnings and endings are connected.
In both Immediate Fiction and Crafting for Story the authors make a point of how the ending is directly connected with the beginning.
“When you’re having trouble ending a story, it’s because you don’t have a real beginning, a true conflict. The secret to endings is: the end is in the beginning.” P.26 Immediate Fiction
“First and foremost, the resolution must specifically resole the complication. If the complication is that the character was in danger of going bankrupt, for instance, he does not resolve it by becoming a born-again Christian. He may resolve his fear of bankruptcy in that fashion, but not the bankruptcy itself.” P.80 Writing for Story
So as an exercise I wanted to see if this held true with a book like A Walk in the Woods. And guess what?
“Best of all, these days when I see a mountain, I look at it slowly and appraisingly, with a narrow, confident gaze and eyes of chipped granite.” P.394
Now it’s common sense that the ending of the story needs to resolve the problem/complication/chief desire of the character from the beginning. But how often have you seen a movie, read a book and you weren’t at all satisfied with the ending? Maybe the writers got lost and forgot the beginning.
But Bill Bryson was better than that.