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.


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

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

  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.

  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.