Depends if you’re reading it or writing it.
When I’m reading I’m anticipating the end. All the way through I’m looking forward to the winding-up of the plot, the fate of the characters, hoping for slick unwrapping of an intricately-contrived scenario, a shocking reveal; dazzled by a brilliant twist. Sadly, it’s not always the case and the tale can lose piquancy like over-cooked cabbage, or change direction, or worse still, throw in an unbelievable plot jump making no sense at all.
For some readers, it’s the middle of the story they love: the grist, the meat of the tale, where the prose flows, picking-up pace, the characters have peeled away their outer layers, showing the raw, naked turmoil within. I understand why the middle can be a draw as a good story takes the reader from the humdrum of daily life, an escape from stress into another world. Yes, the hub maybe a favourite segment for some, but not for me, by then I’m involved and on my journey to the end (bitter or otherwise).
And when I’m writing fiction – I generally consider the middle of the story is when I can see the end!
Let us not forget the thrill of that first alluring paragraph – fresh uncharted words floating on the page, waiting for eager orbs to fasten upon them, tantalised by a little wordy microcosm of adventure: perchance to learn, be enthralled, cringe or laugh… whatever starts your engine. I can’t consciously remember spurning a story after reading the first paragraph (or novel for that matter) – I confess I did once throw a slim, Parma-violet-coloured volume of chick-lit at the wall after six pages of shoes and cupcakes – side-stepping sweetly like a prima ballerina here, if it’s a novel, and a level of dedication is involved, usually I read the blurb on the back, perhaps a comment or two online, a review here or there, but a short story, I consider is a commitment, and feel compelled to see it through to the end – if it’s squalid I can always have a wash afterwards.
What a job writers have: attempting to create a type-tastic triumph so compelling it will stay with you like a garlic naan. As a writer, the pressure to start this feat of creation is intense, the word-cloud forming above your head, immense.
Baiting your hook. Depending on the breed of reader you wish to ensnare, gore-dazzled horror-fan; sugar-soaked romantic; space-wrangling alien obsessive, or a tough-catch expecting a warped hybrid spanning genres.
For lubrication of the mind muscles: I recommend coffee to start the process, water for essential hydration during the continual shifting of chunks of creation (oh, that bit looks so much better at the start) and upon completion, a thumping great glass of your tincture of choice.
Oh glory – what to do! A spicy start? Confusing conundrum of mystery? Kaleidoscope of colourful characters? … More coffee needed.
What setting to choose? What names to use? Relationships... Theme! Facts? Quick google for a plan… So much information telling you what to write, which advice do you take?
Why do you want to write the story? Must it fulfil certain criteria? In keeping tabs on all the factors involved in your literary project it’s all too easy to forget the structure keeping the words in place. Start-Track-Finish.
But however you wend your way to the end, do try to stay on the field of play.