Shiritori . . . what?
Welcome. So glad you asked.
Shiritori is a Japanese phrase that translates roughly to “begin at the end” or (ahem) “taking the buttocks”. Shiritori is also a popular word game in Japan in which players are required to say a word which begins with the final kana of the previous word.
I used to engage my elementary school students with this game, (need to torment my middle school students with it). This entertaining game can also increase in difficulty the longer you play and based on the amount of words you know . . . or don’t know. Here, let me further explain with the English version:
I’m going to go first for this round, okay? Here’s the first word:
Now, you need to provide a word that ends with the last letter in the word apple. Yes?
Okay. So shoot. Ahhh. You chose eagle. Fine. I will counter with enormous. And then you chose . . . hmm. How interesting . . . suicide? (Morbidly aggressive. I like that).
Darn it. We’re back at the letter “e” again. Palm to the head.
Now, enter the rules. You may NOT use a word that has already been mentioned. Nouns, adjectives, and verbs are allowed as long as they have never been played. However, you may NOT use inflected forms of previously stated words (kicking, kicked, etc.). In Japan, there is an actual “end” to the “begin at the end” game. Basically, if a player plays a word ending in the mora or N (which sounds like a long drawn out “nnnn” then he or she loses the game, as no Japanese word begins with that character. J
Shiritori often comes to mind when I’m not sure of what to write next. It’s also great technique for battling writer’s block. As a writer, beginnings and sometimes endings often flow fluidly from my mind, through my pen, and onto my paper with much ease. However, I struggle with what I call “bothersome middles”. Primary reasons are the story loses momentum due to characters growing stale, lack of urgency and excitement in the plot, and sometimes uncertainty. To be honest, even when I outline my stories, I often stray off the beaten path like Little Red Riding Hood, distracted by a meadow bursting with flowers or intrigued by a new villain sporting a wolfish grin. Often, I’m not certain which path I want my characters to take. And worse of all I experience self-doubt. Why should you write this? Are you even bringing anything new to this genre?
So, to heck with the middle! Break out the wine glasses, pour literary libations – let’s engage in craziness and “take the end”! In order to stimulate my creativity and to remind myself why I love to write, I often return to the ending of my novel, savoring how my main characters have triumphed against all the odds I have stacked against them, upon them, behind them, above them, inside of them (and on and on) in order to complete the remainder of the story.
Beginning at the end is a great way to guarantee your readers a satisfying story. But, Monique, you might ask, what if I haven’t written my ending yet? Great question. Even if you haven’t, you can make sure that the following features are included in your ending when you are ready to write the words:
FEATURE ONE: Your Main Character Must Grow The main character or hero of your story must demonstrate that he or she has conquered the obstacles that have kept him or her from getting what he or she wanted all along. He or she must confront and conquer inner (and sometimes very real) demons and stand victorious. In my soon to be published dark fantasy novel “Forbidden Fruit”, Gabriel Lennox grows as a stronger individual. He realizes that he must make sacrifices for others even at the cost of his own life.
FEATURE TWO: Your Main Character Is the Key The main character of your story needs to be active and in control. In other words, he can’t just sit around waiting to be rescued. Nor should he observe or just narrate what is going on. He may not take second place to another character either. He is the moving force. He is like the Panama Canal, the conduit and catalyst to your literary seas!
FEATURE THREE: Your Main Character Gets a Groovy Makeover At the end of your story, your main character should be newer and better in some way. He is the improved version of his earlier self and this is the moment where he has earned the right (through all of the horrible things you inflicted upon him) to be called a hero. After all, it is through his or her thinking, courage, and actions that have kept readers turning the pages.
The ending should bring about a catharsis for the reader in response to the heroism of your main character. Time and time again, I recall books that made me smile, cheer, cry, and remember every heartache, every slight wronged, every injustice made right – through the eyes of a well-written story, starring a beloved protagonist. That’s my goal as a wordsmith.
How about you?
Do you dare to begin at the end and take your novel “by the buttocks” in order to kick literary a**? 🙂