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One of the most common ways for a writer to end a narrative is to resolve an issue which is introduced to the reader at the beginning. This has been called a circular or cyclical ending and it is basically explaining that the end takes the reader back to the beginning.
Cyclical narratives are usually structured in a chronological order. However, this is not always necessary as the beginning can be returned to through a description of place or character at a different time.
If a mystery or question is set at the beginning, the circular ending returns to the question and may give the reader an answer (or explain why there is no answer!).
Back to the beginning
Look at the following descriptions of the beginnings of different narratives. Match what you feel would be the most appropriate circular ending by dragging the text on the right to match up with the text on the left.
You scored out of 11.
Move some of the endings around to try to improve your score.
You scored out of 11.
The narrator explains that s/he feels very sad as everything appears to be going wrong.
A busy market place is described, full of people laughing and chatting. There is a large choice of shops.
A young mother explains her thoughts and fears for the future.
A father shares his worries about his disabled daughter and the limits that the family can help in her development.
The moonlight beams coldly down onto a park where a solitary figure is sitting on a bench
The narrator opens an envelope and begins to read the letter held within.
A metal-detectorist describes uncovering the top of a buried pot. She can see that it is a Saxon burial pot filled with coins.
A family are described carefully planting a young tree. A group of friends and neighbours watch as the soil is patted down.
The narrator describes a crime that they have just committed. They place their phone on the table. They sit and wait.
A child is hugged and kissed. His mother mouths a silent ‘Sorry.’ The baby boy is handed over to a young couple in another room. They are overjoyed.
A town is being evacuated. Long queues of people of all ages wait patiently to board the lines of buses. Police and soldiers ensure that everyone finally leaves.
S/he is waiting for a phone call and the hope of a brighter future from the news.
The town centre is filled with rubbish blowing in the wind. Boarded-up shops paint a bleak picture.
The unlikely friendship with an older neighbour makes her start to feel more optimistic.
A letter arrives explaining that a place has been secured at the most high-performing school for children with special needs.
Snow is falling and slowly starts to engulf a park bench. A newly installed plaque is only just still visible.
The post is delivered and the narrator slowly walks to the door to collect the letter that is expected and long overdue.
The sound of an auctioneer’s hammer striking the table fills the room as ‘The Norwich Hoard’ is sold for a record price of £185,000.
The first fruit of summer – a red apple bursting with life. It is picked with tender care and held close to the mother’s heart.
A blue flashing light invades the darkness of the room. There is a loud knock at the door. Sirens can be heard in the distance.
A teenage boy sits in a cafe in a modern shopping centre. He checks the time again and again. He is clearly nervous. A woman approaches. She holds a letter in her hand.
Overgrown streets have been reclaimed by nature. A tree grows in the middle of a road. A woman adjusts her breathing mask as she recognises the faded doll still asleep in the cot.
Follow on task: Choose one of the cyclical narrative ideas in the previous task. Plan, structure and write your own version of the whole narrative.