by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig
Many writers have a hard time with beginning and ending their books. I’ve never had much trouble starting a book (I rarely vary from starting with dialogue between two important characters), but endings I really used to struggle with.
If you’re like me, there’s a technique you could try to see if it makes your book’s ending stronger. It’s a reflective, or mirroring technique. The idea is to subtly remind the reader at the book’s close of a similar scene at the beginning of the book. It helps lend a full-circle feel to a story and can offer a satisfying ending for readers and a sense of closure.
I saw an interesting tweet recently from Open Culture. They featured a supercut by Jacob T. Swinney of the first and final frames of 55 different films, shown side by side. Many of the films had reflective endings–and the ones that resonates the most with me did.
For my books, I use it mainly to re-establish order at the end of the book. The idea behind these gentle mysteries is to have an idyll at the beginning of the book. Someone destroys the idyll via murders but, by the end, justice is served and peace is restored again. It’s very tidy. The loose ends are tied up. My characters may be in the kitchen eating tomato sandwiches at the beginnings and ends of the story. This technique can signify that, although the protagonist has overcome all sorts of trouble and conflict, some things remain, comfortingly, the same.
But you can get fancy with this technique, and expand it into other areas of your story. Fantasy writer Janice Hardy has some great ideas in this post on working other mirroring techniques into your story. As she explains the role of these types of mirrors:
Mirrors aren’t just copies, but ideas and themes reflected in characters and situations around the protagonist. Sometimes they match the protagonist’s emotions or choices, other times they reflect the opposite, but they deepen the story by allowing the protagonist (and reader) to “experience” other potential outcomes without derailing the story. Stakes become more real when we see them occur, and the right mirror can do a world of foreshadowing and raise the tension.
Do you use mirroring techniques in your stories? For endings, or in other ways? As a reader, is this something you notice or find satisfying?
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