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Bookends

Banes at 12:00AM, May 31, 2018
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A story can be strengthened by coordinating the first and final images in some way.

It's not a hard and fast rule; it's not a rule at all. But it can be worth trying out in your writing!

The movie Halloween (there it is! I had to start talking about it!) starts with an image of Michael Myers' family home, 17 years ago or so, being approached by someone in that now-classic POV shot. The movie ends with a montage of places touched by Myers' horror, and the final image is of the Myers house again, now dilapidated and boarded up.

High Fidelity starts with a distraught Rob hiding in his headphones, blasting music after a breakup, and ends with him in headphones again, making a mixed tape for someone he cares about and is committing to in a less selfish way than he's been in the past.

Spider Man 2 begins with an image of Mary Jane on a poster as Peter walks by. Their relationship is strained because of his secret superheroic mission. The film ends after they've gone through some stuff and become a real couple, and shows the REAL Mary Jane, urging Spiderman out to do his work.

Sorry for the old time references; they were the ones that came to mind.

Final Images are often opposite images or “flipped” versions of Opening Images in some way.

Bookending can be subtle, like in the Seinfeld finale that includes a piece of dialogue straight from the first episode. In a neat extra bookend, the final tag is missing Elaine from the classic foursome, which works as well because she was not in the pilot episode either. Both written by Larry David.

The Breaking Bad final episodes bring back some characters from the first couple episodes, and the finale features a flashback to the very first episode.

Bookending!

The first episode of ST:TNG featured the crew encountering Q, a powerful alien being, who appeared as a judge of humanity, determining whether the human race deserved to exist.

Seven years, and many many episodes later, Captain Picard found himself moving back and forth through time. He saw his own future, and also traveled against his will into the past, to that first adventure. This allowed us to see past crewmembers (Tasha Yar!) and a less evolved Data. Fun stuff! It also brought back Q, who appeared all through the series, but now reappeared in his Judge's outfit for the first time.

It's a great episode, exciting and as perfect a send off as the series could have had. But is it the “Bookending” technique that made it work?

The thing was well written and directed, and the actors did great as always.

But if you ask me, yes! It's the Bookending that makes it work. That's what makes it really special.

Revisiting earlier characters, or dialogue, or settings can show how far the characters have come, and how they've changed (or how they haven't, as in the Seinfeld example).

So, look for a taste of the beginning in the ending. Maybe try peppering in a little bit of your beginnings into your own endings; even if it's subtle, people might feel it.

Whenever I see this in a story it makes me feel really good for some reason. The symmetry, I guess? Have you ever noticed this or tried it in your own story?

have a good one!





-Buy ‘Best of Banes’ Bookends wherever cigarettes are sold

comment

anonymous?

Albino Ginger at 1:28PM, May 31, 2018

I think I Did this in chapter 2 of Holy Bible A.G.V. On the first page, God is sitting on the beach celebrating the first Sabbath, and on the last page, God and also Adam are sitting on the beach celebrating the second sabbath.

bravo1102 at 10:03AM, May 31, 2018

Wow, doesn't seem like we watched the same episode. Like a lot of the two part episodes, they had no idea where it was going end when they started writing it. All they knew was "bookends" go back to the beginning for the ending. I sort of did that in Battle of the Robofemoids with them leaving earth after a seeming defeat at the beginning and returning at the end with an opportunity for a new victory. I used the opposite side of the solar system entry sign on Pluto.

PaulEberhardt at 7:44AM, May 31, 2018

I'm crap at endings myself, but appreciate bookends when I see them. Many stories (and many books) tend just to peter out after going strong for the first, say, two thirds of their pages, and I always think that a bit disappointing. But then, I'll second ozone on the end of Star Trek TNG. It was rushed, and so it felt, especially with its haphazard plot. I remember I was quite disappointed with it, too.

bravo1102 at 7:25AM, May 31, 2018

I'll do things in the conclusion that mirror the beginning, but never so near as to be a bookend. Just not a good enough writer. :)

ozoneocean at 6:19AM, May 31, 2018

To whit: that final episode of Star Trek the Next Generation. That felt cheap and sad to me. It wasn't an end that the series had been working towards, it was foisted onto them as it was unexpectedly cancelled. They needed to scramble to find an ending... so back to the first episode for inspiration, with a big fat puffy Q and a setting that no longer really fit with his character nor the them of the show as it had progressed over the years. It was hammered back into a form that it no longer fit into in order to get that symmetrical ending.

ozoneocean at 6:13AM, May 31, 2018

The very first story I wrote with a good ending was done this way. I think it as more of something the author does to please themselves because an audience might not always get it... also it's a much easier way to get a decent ending, much like symmetry in artwork: it's a short-cut, not necessarily the best way to get an effect but one you know will work. I appreciate the use of this technique but be very careful not to overuse it because it could come off as cheap.

KimLuster at 5:07AM, May 31, 2018

Great article! Not bookends per se, but pages 48 and 296 of the Godstrain mirror each other, as Kimber Lee is about to take a dream journey in both, but under very different circumstances... So I guess it's kinda a bookend within the story!!

bravo1102 at 3:05AM, May 31, 2018

"All Good Things..." is one of my favorite ST:tng episodes. Though I often do comics with endings, I don't think I've ever done bookends. Dunno, may be because I think of endings as new beginnings and moving on.


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