Tie-Back Ending: An Example

A fellow blogger has been sharing an excellent series of posts related to story structure, and one his most recent posts deals with “Writing the End.” One of the strategies he mentions is “the Tie-back Ending.” I promised that I would post an example that provides a slight twist on his description of this kind of ending, and this post is the example I promised.

The novel Karl Myers is set in 1955 and is composed of two volumes that were written to be read as one work. The following two excerpts from the novel represent the beginning and the ending of the first volume. I encourage you to note the links between the first excerpt and the second. An analysis is provided in the “Blogger’s Notes” section at the end of the post.

Excerpts from Karl Myers by Jeff Lee

Four, empty quart bottles glisten in the sun. The dark brown glass of each, near black to the eye in the bright light, is belted with a label on which, among other things, is printed “Schmidt’s.” The bottles sit on the rusting remnants of the tailgate of an ancient Chevy pickup, which is close to and pointed toward the western boundary of Fort Miles. The pickup is corroded and pitted from years of exposure to the salted sea air that has blown inland from the Atlantic Ocean, which is one-and-a-half-miles away on the other side of the Great Dune. It is sand from the dune that has buried the front of the pickup to its headlights due to the dune’s irresistible and glacial, wind-driven march inland.

Because today has brought a reprieve of light, southerly air, the gentle breeze carries the unique scent of nearby salt marshes and not the unpleasantly pungent odors of the fish processing plants that line the Delaware Bay shoreline. The sandy clearing—bordered by invasive black pines—is not far from a two-laned, paved road that runs parallel to the bay and toward the entrance to the Army base. The only sounds are the occasional buzzing of greenheads, and the distant workings of the fish plants, the plants that are the reason why in 1953, Lewes, Delaware claimed to be “the nation’s largest fishing port.”

A sharp, earsplitting crack disturbs the silence, followed almost simultaneously by the crystalline sound of splintering glass and a metallic click. A faint echo of the first shot returns to the clearing as another deafening crack and the shattering of glass rings out. The sequence repeats until the bottles are destroyed. Doing so requires six shots and less than ten seconds.

At the other end of the clearing, two hundred feet across the sand from the abandoned pickup, thirty-three-year-old Jerry Peterman holds to his shoulder a surplus, M1 Garand, .30-06, battle rifle still sighted at where the bottles had been. Slowly, he lowers the rifle muzzle until it points at the ground. His eyes remain focused on the pickup as a suggestion of a smile—a hint of confidence or perhaps arrogance—interrupts what has been a stony countenance, but the smile lasts only for a moment, and cold eyes turn toward his twelve-year-old son standing a few feet away. When the boy senses his father’s eyes on him, he straightens into a posture approximating military attention and stares at the elder Peterman’s left ear.

88,000+ words later …

Four, empty quart bottles glisten in the sun. The dark brown glass of each, near black to the eye in the bright light, is belted with a label on which, among other things, is printed “Schmidt’s.” The bottles sit on the rusting remnants of the tailgate of an ancient Chevy pickup, which is close to and pointed toward the western boundary of Fort Miles. The pickup is corroded and pitted from years of exposure to the salted sea air from the Atlantic Ocean, which is one-and-a-half-miles away on the other side of the Great Dune, the dune that has buried the front of the pickup to its headlights, a result of the sand’s irresistible and glacial, wind-driven march inland.

The air is still and has the crisp bouquet of frost. On this late fall day, the buzzing of greenheads is replaced by the whisper of wind through nearby black pines, and the distant sounds of the workings of the fish processing plants along the shoreline of the Bay remain ever-present.

A sharp, earsplitting crack disturbs the silence, followed almost simultaneously by the crystalline sound of splintering glass and a metallic click. There is another click; a faint echo of the first shot returns as another deafening crack and the shattering of glass rings out. The sequence repeats until all the bottles are destroyed. Doing so requires five shots and less than ten seconds.

At the other side of the clearing, two hundred feet across the sand from the abandoned pickup, thirty-three-year-old Jerry Peterman holds to his shoulder a surplus, M1 Garand, .30-06, battle rifle still sighted at where the bottles had been. Slowly, he lowers the rifle muzzle until it points at the ground. His eyes remain focused on the pickup; his stony countenance suggests that the shattering glass no longer provides a reward for this man who has lost everything.

He steps slowly across the sand to his Army surplus jeep, climbs into the passenger side of the cab from which the door has been long removed, and sits on the cracked and worn leather seat. He rests the stock of the rifle on the floor between his polished combat boots, holds the barrel with his left hand, rests his chin on the muzzle, and stretches his right forefinger toward the safety and trigger. It will be the easiest shot he has ever made.

BLOGGER’S NOTES:

It will be obvious to the reader of Karl Myers that the first and third paragraphs are identical, with the intention of being used as “brackets” to what has transpired from the beginning to the end of the story; readers have validated that they readily recognized these paragraphs in the ending as those first read in the beginning.

The second paragraphs in each excerpt have a similar intent, which is to establish the setting and the time period of each excerpt (summer vs. late fall). The second paragraph in the ending excerpt is brief in description because the reader’s assumption that we’re still in Lewes only needs to be confirmed by “the workings of the fish processing plants along the shoreline of the Bay remain ever-present.”

The fourth paragraphs are a combination of what the reader has already read—the first two sentences from each excerpt are identical—which sets up an opportunity for the writer to confirm for the reader—for the first time—how what has transpired over the previous months has impacted the antagonist, Jerry Peterman.

The last two sentences of the fourth paragraph in the beginning excerpt are aligned with the last sentence of the fourth paragraph of the ending and with the ending’s fifth paragraph. The final sentences of the ending are placed in a separate paragraph because of their significance in providing a dramatic and appropriate consequence for the antagonist.

See below to read a preview of Karl Myers and/or to purchase a Kindle or trade paperback version.