Here’s a quick way to identify whether a story is complete: Look at the beginning and the end.
Beginnings and endings are inherently related. That means if the beginning doesn’t match the ending, there’s a huge chance the story isn’t complete. One way the beginning and ending can match is through the beginning foreshadowing the ending.
In “Star Wars,” the story begins with a small battle in space between two starships. Then the story ends with a much bigger battle in space between X-wing fighters and the Death Star. The opening simply represents a smaller version of the ending.
Now imagine if “Star Wars” opened with a battle in space and ended with two lawyers arguing in court. The opening promises space battles but a court battle doesn’t match that beginning. That’s how easy it can be to identify whether a story is complete or not.
Another opening and ending in a story involves a journey. In the beginning, the hero sets off on a journey. By the end, the hero returns back home. “Little Miss Sunshine” starts with a little girl wanting to compete in a beauty pageant and then leaving to get to the pageant. By the end, she’s competed in the beauty pageant and is on her way back home.
The beginning frames the ending. If a story’s beginning doesn’t match the ending, there’s a good chance the story won’t feel complete since the ending won’t match the promise that the beginning set up.
If you’re evaluating a story, just look at the beginning and the ending to see if they work together. If not, then the story may be in trouble. If they do match, the story may still not be well-written, but at least the beginning and ending work together and that’s a start.