Prepared by: Florence Cardinal
Posted on: July 26, 2003
Reposted on: May 30, 2004
Reposted on: May 28, 2005
Reposted on: April 23, 2006
(This is an updated version of exercise
first run as "Closing the
Many spiritual beliefs include references
to the circle and consider
it to be
sacred. Native Americans, for instance, have the circle of life. The
mandala is in the shape of a circle, and don't forget healing circles,
of magic, and on and on.
Circles play a large part in many areas,
even in writing. Bringing a
circle is one of many techniques used for writing effective endings.
instance, if you start the story with softly falling snowflakes, then
it by mentioning the snow again. This device can use a repeated symbol
to establish a sense of closure. It's even more effective if this
symbol has somehow been changed by the events in the story. The change
subtle or something really startling.
A story follows a certain pattern - rising
progressively to a
winding down to closure. (This is referred to as the story arc, or can
as a lopsided triangle.) At the end, whatever situation was dealt with
have returned to a normal state - the crisis is resolved, in some form
other. The use of a repeated symbol or image helps establish this sense
For instance, this is from the first
paragraph of a descriptive
essay I wrote:
With the first killing
frost, the pelicans left
for their winter home in Texas.
This is from the last paragraph of the
As I trudge up the path,
I look up and see frost
dancing in the moonlight.
With the mention of frost in both
paragraphs, I have brought it full
the first I refer to the devastation of that 'killing frost' but by the
have come to terms with the arrival of winter and learned to enjoy it
watch 'frost fairies dancing in the moonlight.'
For this exercise, write a scene or
description of 300 to 500 words,
it "full circle" by using something from the beginning at the end. Try
how that something had been altered.
To critique, focus on whether or not the
scene uses the beginning
the end, and whether you can see any change. Remember, this symbol can
anything - a place, an object, even an animal or a person, and the
be subtle or far-reaching.
Florence Cardinal's wrap-up
Posted on: August 4, 2003
A good week. I think almost everyone gave
the Coming Full Circle
exercise a try
and lots of critiques to round things out.
Sometimes the circle element was a scene,
sometimes event, often
just a word.
Some not only brought the piece full circle, but the repeated word or
appeared several times in the story, creating not only a circle but a
a symbol and that's another exercise we have had previously.
The majority of the critiques pointed out
what circle appeared in
the story and
whether it was successful or not.
We're hoping that this exercise points out
one device that will add
your story. You wouldn't want to use it with every story but
piece will need something to finish it, to make it complete. Find a
phrase, scene - anything near the beginning and let it appear again at
We'll be doing exercises on other literary devices so watch for them.
Web site created by
Rhéal Nadeau and
the administrators of the Internet Writing Workshop.
Modified by Gayle Surrette.