Why Your Story’s Ending Determines its Beginning through its Middle

Zig-zag

Storyline

Teachers of storytelling often tell us that we should know our story’s ending before we start writing its beginning. Syd Field immediately comes to mind. But why should this be the case? What’s so important about a story’s ending?

Well, think of it this way: All journeys point toward their end. Simply put, the ending gives the story its purpose, its theme – it’s raison d’être. The theme, which contains the moral essence of the tale, emerges as the product of two opposing characters, or forces, clashing in a final showdown and yielding a winner: The winner carries the theme. Badly crafted endings, therefore, make for badly crafted stories.

The Matrix

In The Matrix, human love, imagination, and determination, trump machine intelligence. This only emerges at the end of the story with the resurrection of Neo through Trinity’s kiss and the result of his final confrontation with agent Smith. Had Neo died at the hands of Smith, the theme would have been exactly the opposite. Knowing the ending, therefore, curtails the kind of beginning your story may have, within your chosen genre, in order to maintain believability and coherence.

But to chart the path to a final location in three dimensional space, you need three points. That’s where the midpoint of your story comes in. The midpoint forces the beginning to deflect through a further point in story space in order to reach the endpoint. The midpoint, therefore, further constrains the sort of beginning your story may have and still achieve a pleasing shape. Carelessly placed beginning, middle, and endpoints result in meaningless squiggles.

How do you draw a pleasing story shape? You use mounting opposition to the Hero’s achieving his goal, driven by tension, pace, and conflict, to guide your hand. Joining your three points, then, will result in a zigzagging line which climbs upwards to the ending.

Summary

Crafting a story’s ending as an inevitable part of its beginning and middle makes for a coherent tale.

Invitation

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Image: Victory of the People
License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

2 thoughts on “Why Your Story’s Ending Determines its Beginning through its Middle

  1. J Trott

    As a struggling writer this post just lit the light bulb over my head. It is such sound advice but concisely written. Many thanks.

    Reply
    1. Stavros Halvatzis Post author

      Glad to have been of help! Getting the ending right certainly gives us all a shove in the right direction.

      Reply

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