View Full Version : Bookends

07-19-2006, 01:40 AM
I've been following along on the threads that have discussed both the use of prologues/epilogues, and interspersed flashbacks. It got me thinking (usually a dangerous thing) about other storytelling techniques, and now I'm curious about the use of bookends in novels.

For anyone not sure what I mean by "bookends," the best example I can think of is the movie Titanic. It begins in the present, sets up a conflic, then moves into the past where the majority of the story takes place. At the end, it jumps back to the present, a few more things are revealed, and THE END. Less than twenty percent of the actual film takes place during those bookends, but they are essential to the film's overall story arc.

I tried to think of a novel that has used this technique. The closest I came was the original format of The Green Mile (Stephen King). When it was published as six serial volumes, each slim novel began and ended with scenes of "Present Day Paul," with the meat of the story set in the past.

Can anyone give me of other examples of this technique in fiction? Do you like it? Do you run from it in terror?

07-19-2006, 01:43 AM
Wasn't "The Notebook" done that way? Been awhile since I read Nic Sparks.

07-19-2006, 01:50 AM
I was just about to say The Notebook. It really depends on your story. The bookends usually have a story arc on their own. Usually it works pretty well in the "storytelling/nostalgia" framework, such as in the Notebook or Titantic.

07-19-2006, 01:54 AM
This was a device sometimes used in nineteenth century Gothic novels. Wuthering Heights, which isn't exactly a Gothic but has Gothic qualities, uses this kind of frame.

- Victoria

Elizabeth Slick
07-19-2006, 01:57 AM
"This Boy's Life" is sort of like that.

Kristen King
07-19-2006, 01:58 AM
Yes, I think of it as framing, like in Frankenstein (a little deeper into the framework, but basically the same idea).


07-19-2006, 02:36 AM
I like frame narratives, if done well.

Frankenstein is one of my all time favorite novels.

07-19-2006, 02:47 AM
As I recall, the movie Merlin was set up this way. It started with a storyteller who at the end we discover is one of the main characters of the narrative.

The Princess Bride is another classic example, as is the video game The Longest Journey.

Oh, you were asking about books. Um. yeah. Kids these days... shame on us.

07-19-2006, 02:53 AM
Also "The Colorado Kid" by Steve King, and "From a Buick 8" by Steve King.


Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde was too, if I recall.

07-19-2006, 03:09 AM
Don't forget Edward Scissorhands!

Oh, wait...

That's not a book. :cry:

07-19-2006, 08:44 AM
Other forms of "bookends" are less obvious.

For instance, in the Orchestral movement, "Prayers of Kierkegaard" by Samuel Barber, the very beginning echoes softly with the melody that will resound through the concert hall in the end. (a a a g a g a c d a)

Thematic bookends are a very common thing, and a good idea. In fact, especially in tight narratives like short stories, thrillers, and novellas motif bookends help tie everything into a nifty little relosution.

07-19-2006, 10:08 AM
The book I'm reading at the moment, 'Norwegian Wood' by Haruki Murakami does this and does it very well.