Find the Perfect Ending to Your Story with Bookends

Thursday, April 07, 2016
by Chris Eboch 

Strong stories have a distinct beginning (introducing the main character and problem), middle (where the character tries to solve the problem), and end (where the character succeeds or fails, and possibly learns a lesson). A story can feel especially satisfying if the end clearly echoes the beginning.

Perhaps a character has gone on a journey, and at the end he returns home. Maybe she starts by struggling with some physical task, and at the end she succeeds. Or he’s resisting a change, and embraces it at the end. When the final setting or situation is similar to the opening, creating “bookends” to the middle, the pattern feels satisfying. It also helps tie the story together and ensure it hasn’t wandered off on tangents.

Review but New

While the ending echoes the beginning, it shouldn’t duplicate it. With a few exceptions, a story requires change. Quite likely, a problem has been solved. Hopefully, the main character has grown. The traveler returns with a new appreciation for his home. The woman who thought she’d never make it as a dancer is satisfied with her progress. The boy who wanted nothing to do with the new baby appreciates having a sibling. They haven’t merely solved the problem; they’ve changed how they feel about the situation.

The ending scene illustrates the changes by using a scene or language similar to, but slightly different from, the opening. If you open with a girl trying to hit a baseball, close with her back at the same park, swinging at a baseball again. Try making the circumstances as similar as possible, with the same weather and other characters present. You might even use similar language, with small shifts to show what’s changed.

Here’s an example from my story “One Froggy Night,” (Highlights, April 2010):

I pulled back the blinds and stared into the wet night. I shivered, glad to be indoors. When Dad got home, maybe we’d play video football. This was a night to play games and drink hot chocolate.

Dad draws the child outside, where they find dozens of frogs hopping in the rain. After this outdoor adventure, the story ends with the characters still outside.

As we walked toward home, I said, “This night just needs one thing to make it perfect.”
“What’s that?” asked Dad.
“Hot chocolate.”

While the characters don’t return home before the scene ends, the repeat of “hot chocolate” echoes the beginning, while showing that the character has learned the appeal of both exploring outside and a cozy night at home.

Satisfying Echoes

Using bookend scenes is one form of showing rather than telling. The reader can see how things have changed, and whether or not the change has satisfied the main character. This typically suggests the theme, so you don’t need to explicitly point out the lesson learned.

By thinking about bookends, you may find a natural ending point for your story, so you don’t stop too early or drag on too long. Review your beginning when you work on your ending, and let the echo of a bookend bring your plot to a satisfying conclusion.


Chris Eboch is the author of over 50 books for children and adults. Chris teaches through the Institute of Children’s Literature and has led dozens of popular writing workshops around the world. Her novel for ages nine and up include The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; The Genie’s Gift, a middle eastern fantasy; and the Haunted series, about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show. Chris writes for adults under the name Kris Bock. “Kris Bock” novels are action-packed romantic suspense involving outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. Read excerpts at

Chris’s writing craft books include Advanced Plotting and You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers. Learn more at or check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog. Chris has her MA degree in Professional Writing and Publishing from Emerson College in Boston..

Would you like to learn new techniques to make your story's plot dynamic? Chris is teaching a brand new course with WOW! Women On Writing: Advanced Plotting: Keep Those Pages Turning.


Renee Roberson said...

These are great tips, Chris, and helped me with some opening page issues I've been struggling with. Thank you!

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