I Open at The Close

One counterintuitive piece of storytelling advice to help you build a more powerful story

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TS Eliot wrote: “The end is where we start from.“

The overarching goal of a storyteller is to get your audience from beginning to end. Nobody starts a book to get to the middle. And at the end, your reader should feel their time has not been wasted.

So simple, yeah?

Story rewards people who can take not necessarily the shortest path from Beginning to End, but the most compelling. The path that keeps the reader asking, “What happens next?”

I’m no expert, but I’ve found the biggest unlock for me has been to write the end of my story first.


The end of your story has a mass to it. An element of gravity. It’s like a magnet pulling your story forward or the sun holding the planets in orbit.

Your ending should reflect the beginning of your story. The closer the two are to each other, the more interesting they become. View your story as a circle. At what point is your ending the reflection of your beginning? Often, that’s where you want to end.

Great endings often resonate because they echo a word, scene, or convo that came before, but do so in such a way that the reader’s forced to dig deeper.

Five of my favorite examples:

  • The top wobbling at the end of Inception.

  • The pigs in Animal Farm start to resemble humans.

  • The buildings collapsing at the end of Fight Club.

  • Red traveling to Zihuatanejo, fulfilling the promise made to Andy earlier in Shawshank Redemption.

  • The last line of the great Gatsby, “borne back ceaselessly into the past,” echoes Gatsby’s fixation on the past from early in the story.

If you’ve read this letter for a while, you know I’m a Harry Potter nerd. Remember the line Dumbledore left for Harry in book 7?

“I open at the close.”

Stories are like that, too. The end drives the beginning and middle, not the other way around.

Write the end first.

That way you know what you need to achieve, what you need to mention, and what matters throughout your story.

Have an awesome weekend,


PS. I brought back Sentences I Wish I Wrote at the bottom as trivia.

Nathan’s Notes

3 things I found interesting this week:

  • Like Stories of Old. A fascinating YouTube channel digging into stories. Robbie Crabtree from Potential AI shared this with me. I may or may not have spent 2.5 hours digging through these last night.

  • The female carries the secret. There’s not enough writing on creating an excellent female character. I loved this podcast where Steven Pressfield gets into how he thinks about female characters.

  • DoWithIn. It stands for “Do cool stuff, With cool people, In cool places.” My friend Jordan runs it and it’s one of the most unique newsletters I’ve come across. Check it out.

Want to go deeper on storytelling? 3 ways I can help:

1. If you want a practical way to improve your storywriting in less than 25 minutes daily, check out StoryWork (350+ students).

2. To get ahead of the AI curve, check out 90-Minute Novel Outline. It’s a 90-minute mini-course digging into writing fiction with AI. Prompts, processes, and more. We had 180+ students in the live session and it was awesome.

3. If you’re interested in starting or taking your newsletter to the next level, check out my 90-minute Newsletter Crash Course (70+ students).

Here's a 'Sentence I Wish I Wrote.' What novel does it come from?

“I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.”

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