1. Segnaro
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    Segnaro New Member

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    How to end a story where the ending is already told in the beginning?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Segnaro, Dec 18, 2012.

    Have you ever seen one of those movies where it shows you the final scene right at the start of the movie, then the rest of the movie is showing you how things got up to that point? Well, I'm trying to create a short story like this, I've completed everything besides what I believe to become my final paragraph, would anyone have any suggestions as to how I should go about this? I'm honestly stumped, and the only way I can think of is to just copy and paste the beginning into the end as well. I am completely against this though.
     
  2. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    The final scene may be the last thing that happens in the timeline, but NOT the last thing that happens in the plot.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    How is this method of writing the story any more effective than having the end at the end? If you have to think about it too much, I think you should just stick the end where it belongs (at the end). As a reader, I prefer it that way.
     
  4. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    I mean, Selbin nailed it..

    The truth is, the opening scene can be the ending, but reader's don't always know it's an ending. Just look an any film that is non-linear, and you'll see. It's about asking yourself why are you opening up with an ending. Simply because you are trying to re-create a feeling similar to some films? Or is there a specific reason you want to show the readers this? Sticking an ending in the beginning for shits and giggles is nonsense. But, if you have a reason, the ending is going to be its own thing, and imo, the goal of that scene is to simply tie whatever loose ends you created and to leave the reader with the notion that the story has come full circle. It could even be the scene RIGHT before the ending, for the reader already knows what happens after.
    I have to disagree somewhat.. I think it's extremely effective. You're grabbing the reader with a 'curious for the unknown' device. You've just thrown them into a story with no explanation as to how it got there, and if the opening scene is interesting enough, they are going to be drooling to find out how the story go to that place, which then allows the narrator a chance to satisfy.

    Endings don't have to go anywhere specific, just as beginnings don't either. It's all a matter of what the story itself calls for, and what is necessary to tell it. We do whatever we must to tell the story, and if it calls for a non-linear plot, then a non-linear plot is what should be used. If it calls for a traditional sequence, beginning, middle, and then end, by all means, you better use a traditional sequence.

    It's the same concept as the goal of writing: to convey a message in such a way that it is not overexpressed, nor understated.

    It's simply said how it should be said, no more, no less. Every word counts, just like every scene is in place for a reason, not because you wanted it there, but because that space was the only place in which it could fit.
     
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  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    My question was meant for Segnaro's specific case. Just something for him to think about. I should probably add that either way of writing the story is OK, though I still prefer my endings at the end.
     
  6. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    The ending of the timeline is not always the ending of the plot. The last action in the timeline sets up a mystery and the resolution of this mystery to how that event occurred is the climax at the end of the story but not the timeline. The revelation is the true ending and that can come before the last action. If not then you don't really have a story. In summary. An ending at the start is different to an actual ending which is an answer of what cause lead to the affect we started with.
     
  7. Michael Collins
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    Michael Collins Contributing Member

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    In "Survivor" (Chuck Palahniuk) the story begins at the end, with the main character stuck in some situation (I won't spoil) where he begins to tell his story to the readers. By the end of the book, he just continues where he left off.
     
  8. cazann34
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    cazann34 Active Member

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    I wouldn't do that though. Copy and paste the beginning to the end. I think the end should surpass the beginning (the end, in which you start the story) and tell the reader what the repercussions were, now the tale is apparently finished or is it?. Did they live happier ever after or was it the wrong thing to do. I'm thinking of the saying: 'be careful what you wish for' Because when you get it you don't what it!
     
  9. mg357
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    mg357 Active Member

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    Segnaro:Have you considered and epilogue for the ending of the story.
     
  10. Lorraine Johnson
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    Lorraine Johnson Member

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    Twilight (yes, hear everyone groan) she starts with the ending where Bella describes how she never felt she'd die for someone she loved. You have no idea what's going on in this situation until the end when she does come face to face with the person who's going to kill her. Am I on the right path?
    My other thought is another book I read where its from the point of view from a dog that wandered in to the middle of the road and the car that crashed containing the main character, avoided it and died. Can you insert the point of view of another person (or animal) at the start?
     
  11. ithestargazer
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    ithestargazer Active Member

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    The only real suggestion I can give you without knowing the story is to read stories that do similar things and see what you do/don't like about them. It's a starting point and will help you decide if your current structure is necessarily the best way to go.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    One way to handle that scenario is for the complete story to arrive at the climactic scene in such a way the reader discovers that the scene was not what it seemed. Yes, the events were accurately presented, but the reader's natural assumptions were flawed.
     
  13. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^^ that.

    Subvert your readers' expectations - make them think they know where the story's going and then surprise them.

    One thing to consider, though, is why you're using this technique. What are you trying to achieve with it? This isn't necessarily the case with you, but whenever you're struggling to tell a story in a particular way, it's always worth thinking about if this is actually the best way to tell the story.
     
  14. thedarkknight
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    thedarkknight Member

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    You start off the story with the first part of the ending, then describe how he got there, then finish the ending.

    Example:
    Jack backed to the edge of the cliff. The man in the ski mask advanced with his AK-47 aimed right at Jack. He could see no way out.

    Jack was born in Memphis in 1982. He loved mountain climbing. He had an affair with the Governor's daughter and ran money for the mob. Etc. etc. 200 pages. etc. etc. Then we get to...

    Jack looked over the cliff. A shot rang out. Jack's partner has shot the man in the ski mask and saved Jack.
    End of cheesy story.


    See Salem's Lot by Stephen King for a real example.
     
  15. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I have read this sentence 5 times, and I still don't understand it. Who avoided whom and who died!? It sounds like the car that crashed avoided the dog and the car died.... I will assume it's the MC who actually died, but I thought the car avoided the dog - what the heck did it crash into then?

    I know it's irrelevant to the thread but it annoys me that I don't understand this - please explain!
     
  16. Lorraine Johnson
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    Lorraine Johnson Member

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    LOL!! There was a dog on the road, at night and it was raining, the car containing the character was driving along, saw the dog, swerved to avoid it and I guess crashed into whatever was on the side of the road. The dog only looked on, didn't even flinch then walked off on it's merry way.
     
  17. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    Putting the ending at the beginning can give a hook, when done right.
     
  18. astrostu
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    astrostu Member

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    Have you ever read Cien años de soledad (100 Years of Solitude)? Gabriel García Márquez does an amazing job playing with time throughout the book, starting at the ending with the history of the town being revealed by prophetic writings written 100 years before -- they had been encrypted, and they were only readable at that point in time. The rest of the story is how we got to that ending point, laying out the entire history of the town.

    The use of the ending at the beginning, and then how we got there, is also a great way that he puts emphasis on the fatalism theme of the novel. After all, how can you avoid your ending if it was already told at the beginning?

    I'd tell you more, but it's been 11 years since I read it and I don't want to give it away if you want to read it. That said, Wikipedia has a basic outline of the plot that explains this in more detail.
     
  19. Cellardoor54
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    Cellardoor54 New Member

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    My favorite short story I have ever wrote pinned my MC in an unlikely consequence and even the MC was confused. Rewinding the events to how he got there makes sense, but just because he was on a ledge, didn't mean he "jumped". Perhaps what you are implying can happen, just in a different shade or tone.
     
  20. squirrelpen
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    squirrelpen New Member

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    You can end it by finishing the scene with the character telling how it affected them and change their life or give it a twist by giving an unexpected turn of event that is not foreseen in the flow of the story. You can also end the story by relating the story of their life ten years after the final scene, something similar to a epilogue. Do not copy and paste it as readers can be disappointed as there is not surprise in the end of the story. You should give them the feeling of excitement even if the ending has already been told in the beginning of the story.
     
  21. blenderpie
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    blenderpie Member

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    It depends on how obvious you want to be. My favorite way that I have seen this method done (though I have not read everything suggested here) is just to hint that the beginning is the end. In To Kill A MockingBird, it starts with reference to the summer that Jem broke his arm. At the end of the story, Jem breaks his arm. It's just a tiny detail and pretty subtle. But, if you want something much more in your face, then that wouldn't be a good fit.

    I wouldn't copy and paste, though. Perhaps have a much more skeletal summary of the ending as an opening and have the well-rounded and "polished" version at the true end?
     

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