It’s easy to see where a novel begins and ends, if it follows a character from birth to death much like in a biography. When it is only a piece of the character’s life choosing novel endings and beginnings becomes more complicated.
Stop and think about a child’s first day at school. The obvious starting point is that day. But did the story really start that day?
There are days, sometimes weeks of preparation before that day happens. Much of this can probably be worked into the novel as references to events or a flashback to something momentous rather than doing a day by day account which can end up boring the reader and the writer.
When does this story end? That will depend on what the story is about. It may end with the last school bell. But the story doesn’t really end there. The child would continue on to that night and to school again the next day.
As in real life, novel endings are always ambiguous to some extent. The plot for that particular happening ends, but the character does not. This is why writers can create a series.
In the draft I am working on, the plot revolves around a flood. So Mindy, the main character, has time to prepare before the storm. There is the storm. Then comes the devastation after the flood.
Where does the novel begin? I elected to start with the preparation because I wanted to paint a picture of Mindy and her property before the flood. She is facing a major decision concerning the property and her life so her relationship to her property is important to understanding what happens later in the story.
What kind of novel endings can I choose? On the news a flood report is about the flood, maybe the day after and then the story fades away with sentence mentions about the clean up. So I could end the novel with the end of the flood.
Does a flood really end with the water receding? Not in real life. For those in the affected areas the flood’s aftermath has as great an impact or even greater than the flood. And this is the case with my novel.
Choosing novel endings and beginnings are crucial to a novel. A beginning can bore a reader into putting the story down or drag the reader in. The ending can drag on too long. Only the writer can decide.