Day 30 – Tell It Backwards by Julie Duffy

Starting at the end is a fun way to tell a story…

The Prompt

Start your story with the character walking away from a situation (figuratively-speaking) and then explain how they got there.

Things to Consider

  • Think of TV shows that start with a dramatic scene then jump back to eight hours earlier and show how the characters ended up there – in this case you can tell the rest of the story in chronological order from beginning to the moment we entered the story (Looks at the camera: this is where you came in…)
  • Another option is to step back through the day moment by moment, unpacking every event and the event before it, in reverse order. This can be very powerful if you take the readers on an emotional rollercoaster
  • Or you can do some blend of the two.
  • The great thing about this is that you know where you’re going, all the way through the story because you know the outcome. You know what you have to set up to make the ‘ending’ work. Even if you never use this story form again, it’s a great exercise that you can use to rough out the end of a novel or longer story, any time you get stuck!

Possible opening line templates:

As [character name] [active verb][setting], they [verbed] a [noun]. [Image]. [Transition]
e.g. As Joanne fled the crowded pub, she lobbed what remained of her lemonade over her shoulder. With one last look over her shoulder she saw it arc through the air–globules caught in the security lights like fireworks–and spray across the faces of her three meathead pursuers, momentarily slowing them down. She put on a burst of speed. How had it come to this?

[Vivid details about something disastrous]. And to think, just [time period] earlier, everything had been going so well…


A [profession] in a [setting] doesn’t usually end up with [unexpected result], [conjunction]

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Julie Duffy

In 2010 Julie was a frustrated writer, who decided that writing a StoryADay in May would be a great way to kickstart her writing practice. 13 years later, it seems she was right. The rest of the writing world quickly caught on and now May is known as Short Story Month! Julie is the author of writing handbooks, articles, podcasts, workshops and courses, as well as a short story writer, and ‘Book Boss’.

Join the discussion: what will you do with today’s prompt OR how did it go? Need support? Post here!


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