Finding the perfect first line for your story can be a daunting task. Coming up with a compelling ending can be just as difficult.
Whether you decide to use a circular ending or go for a more linear ending, each one has a different structure and will suit different types of stories. Here are some ways to figure out which one will work best for you.
- Circular Endings: when your beginning and ending are comparable but not identical
- Techniques of Circular Ending: ways to connect your beginning and ending through mirroring
- How Circular Endings can go Wrong: what can happen when you do not connect your beginning and end
- Linear Endings: driving straight through from start to finish
- Techniques of Linear Endings: clearing the way for an action filled finish
- How Linear Endings can go Wrong: what can happen when you try to do too much or too little
When the beginning and end of your story connects in a significant way, that is considered a circular ending. It usually ends in the same place and among the same characters with which it began, however the ending may be simlar to or it may contrast with the beginning.
For example, if your character starts out one way and then goes out into the world and grows or changes significantly and then comes back to their pre-existing life, that is an easy way to show the before and after of the character.
Using a circular ending is a great way to show what your character wants and needs, since the journey to discover those things will bring them back full circle.
Techniques of Circular Endings
Since the beginning and ending of your story are comparable but not identical, it makes it easy for you to mirror your characters, their experiences, and the way their lives have changed.
Circular endings tend to, as a story, be more quiet in tone. Some ways to do that include showing seasons turning and returning, the day opening and dropping into twilight, and holidays or other special events that occur.
Be sure to show that there was actually a turning point between the beginning and ending of your story so everything does not seem that it was all in vain. Be sure your story has gone somewhere worthwhile and at the ending isn’t just a replay of the beginning, but that your characters were changed by what happened in the meantime.
How Circular Endings Can Go Wrong
There are a few ways that circular endings can fall apart.
1. Getting lost in exposition
Since the circular ending must show the homecoming or the way the characters have changed since the beginning, you have to show how the middle matters.
The problem with this is that some readers tend to over-analyze those changes when simply showing the changes and how they’ve affected the characters is enough.
2. No homecoming
“Coming home” is a popular resolution in a circular ending. However, you want to make sure that you do not stop your story short of the conclusion and the final confrontation that will bring the ending about. Make sure you settle the important questions posed at the beginning of your story and that the ending reminds readers what those questions mean to your characters.
In a linear ending, once the resolution is achieved, your story is usually over. This is a popular way to end mystery, adventure and suspense stories since they drive straight toward a single goal and stop once the goal has been achieved.
The event that completes your linear story is seen by readers as the main issue so you want to end right after that issue has been achieved or dealt with. Otherwise, your readers may feel your ending was anticlimactic.
All your subordinate characters should be gone, and subplots should be resolved, and if you have a divided plot, both sides should have already converged into one or the less vivid plot should have been reached climax and resolution before you finalize your main plot.
Techniques of Linear Endings
All your subordinate characters should be gone, and subplots should be resolved.
If you have a divided plot, both sides should have already converged into one or the less vivid plot should have been reached climax and resolution before you finalize your main plot.
When Linear Endings Fail
Just as with circular endings, linear endings can go wrong as well.
1. Selling everything
With a linear ending, you want to focus on the central issues of your story and tie up any loose ends before the final crisis begins. The moment your central questions or solved, your story should be over.
2. No new places or characters
You should not introduce new or complex settings or any new characters at the end of your story. Unless your characters are simple walk-ons, and your settings do not need explanation, you do not want to add anything new that you will need to explain to your readers when they are looking for the resolution to your story.
3. No new plot
You brought your reader along this far and you should not want to lose them by adding in extra information that is not related to the central issues of your story. Doing so will risk losing momentum and will seem like a waste of time to your readers. What’s at stake now should be the same thing that has been stake from the very beginning so try to keep your ending as simple and direct as possible.