Is there a literary term for the circular nature of a story, starting in place a, going on to b and c before returning to complete at a again?
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closed as off topic by JSBձոգչ, MrHen, kiamlaluno, Rhodri, Uticensis Apr 15 '11 at 18:15
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If you mean ending a story where it began, one term for this is bookending or employing book ends [warning: TV Tropes] (check examples under the Literature tab).
Also, I once had a professor who described poems that do this as "the snake biting its tail"—which I just discovered is an ancient symbol/archetype named Ouroboros.
Your question is a tad broad but you may be thinking of the "Hero's Journey" or "monomyth". The steps of the journey are:
The Wikipedia article has plenty of details for each step. For instance, the subgroups for Departure are:
The term originated with Joseph Campbell's work on myth and examples can be found in plenty of works. Two modern examples are Star Wars and Ender's Game.
Edit: In response to the clarification, here are a few relevant terms.