There are many movies/books which have an ending that is the foundation for the beginning of the story, an example is Terry Pratchett's book Pyramids. In a way these stories become trapped in a repeating circular process.

How can these types of stories be classified? What term is used for this type of dependency?

  • How about cyclic story? – Jubobs Apr 23 '13 at 14:40
  • @Jubobs, It would be good to bring the essence of dependency, not just the repeating effect. Things can repeat without the end tying with the beginning necessarily. – Vass Apr 23 '13 at 15:02
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    I just thought of something: an ouroborean story, after the fabled snake Ouroboros, who eats its own tail. – Jubobs Apr 23 '13 at 17:03
  • @Jubobs, very very good construction!!! worthy of an imagination badge! – Vass Apr 23 '13 at 21:30

I propose ouroborean story, after the fabled snake Ouroboros, who ends up eating its own tail.

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    +1 for the apt mythological reference, although in practice I'd go with an established usage like stable time loop. – Bradd Szonye Apr 24 '13 at 1:14

The TV Tropes jargon for this kind of story is stable time loop. They list Pratchett's Pyramids as an example of the trope. The concept of a stable time loop as ontological paradox is called the bootstrap paradox, after a Robert A. Heinlein story of this nature.


The cinematic or literary device of placing the ending at the beginning of a film or novel is called flash-forward.

It places an ineluctable, fixed point in the viewer's (or reader's) mind.

(To Jubobs's point, this phrase describes the fixed point, but is less about the story classification.)

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    As you wrote, flash-forward is a mere cinematographic or literary device. It says nothing about the story being cyclic, for lack of a better word. Take the movies Irreversible and Memento as examples: they both deliver the story in reverse chronological order, but that does not make the story itself cyclic in any way. – Jubobs Apr 23 '13 at 16:36
  • @Jubobs yes, I agree. Flash-forward doesn't describe the nature of the plot or the story classification. One wouldn't use Mary Shelley's foreshadowing to describe the plot of Frankenstein. But one might point to her use of the device of foreshadowing to better describe the novel. (I might classify hers as a novel that uses extensive foreshadowing. Similarly, the OP might classify his stories as science fiction/fantasy that uses flash-forwards. – rajah9 Apr 23 '13 at 16:58
  • Memento seems fairly unique in its presentation. (I haven't watched Irreversible.) One might classify it as a tragedy in reverse chronological order. – rajah9 Apr 23 '13 at 16:59

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