Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Full circle endings

"When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home."

This is the first line of S. E. Hinton's classic YA novel, The Outsiders.

It is also the last line.

You may have heard that the seeds of a book's ending are in its beginning, that a good ending often carries echoes of the starting point. Writers rarely apply that advice as literally as Hinton did, but it is a concept that has been very useful to me.

When I wrote the first draft of my second novel, it was about two-thirds the length that it is now, and it ended much earlier. When I started revising it into a second draft, I couldn't shake the sense that the main character hadn't really completed his journey, that something more had to happen. And I looked back to the beginning.

There I found the seeds to a new ending--not only a new ending, but a new climactic event that was even more dramatic than the event I'd originally thought of as the climax. And now I make this a practice: if I have any trouble figuring out how to end a story, I look back to the beginning and search for seeds that I can water and bring to fruition.

4 comments:

  1. I think the beginning/ending of The Outsiders is totally genius. I'm trying to do something similar in my WIP. Awesome post.

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  2. Great advice! I think it's awesome when the ending echoes the opening. Love that sense of completion and cohesiveness.

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  3. It is interesting to find that there are others that do this too. I haven't made it a practice, but it certainly worked out that way in my first completed piece.

    Thank you for sharing that.

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  4. Thanks for commenting, Becca, Linda, and Mieke! We do seem to like the symmetry and sense of completion that comes with ending where we started.

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