• Great Endings: Yours!

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Great Beginnings     Comments 23 comments
    Aug
    5

    TL;DR version: As a bookend to our “Great Beginnings: Yours!” post, we invite you to leave in the comments section the last line or lines or your work-in-progress. No context or explanation; just the words. And if you do so, it would be swell if you’d also provide feedback on another’s last lines. Go on and help a fellow writer out!

     

    Late last year we asked volunteers to share the opening line of their WIPs for some group feedback in a post called “Great Beginnings: Yours!” Over thirty of you did so, and it led to some pleasant conversation and fun reading.

    By now some of you have surely finished those WIPs, and so let’s skip ahead… all the way to the end.

     

    Last Lines, Last Impressions

    Every book is heavy with unmemorable sentences. “He walked down the stairs.” “She poured herself a cup of juice.” “The soup was warm but not hot.” Whatever. They serve a purpose (hopefully), acting as a bridge to help move the action from plot point to plot point.

    But a reader never puts down a book and says, “I really enjoyed the writing; particularly his unmemorable bridge sentences!”

    The final line of any piece of writing is your chance to leave a lasting impression. I’d go so far as to say that a great last line can save a book from mediocrity in a reader’s eye.

     

    Examples

    Some final lines have become canon. Fitzgerald’s boats against the current; Shelley’s darkness and distance; Hemingway’s “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

    Some last lines have a way of both summing up an entire narrative and leaving the reader with something to think about. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale closes with “Are there any questions?” What a fantastic ending.

    “After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.” That’s from A Farewell to Arms. In the middle of this novel, that line wouldn’t stand out. At the end? Oh god, the pathos! Make it stop!

    Sometimes an ending can leave you pondering for days, or even years. Look at Jazz, my favorite Toni Morrison:

    “But I can’t say that aloud; I can’t tell anyone that I have been waiting for this all my life and that being chosen to wait is the reason I can. If I were able I’d say it. Say make me, remake me. You are free to do it and I am free to let you because look, look. Look where your hands are. Now.”

    I first read Jazz in 2012, and have read it four more times since. And I’m still thinking about this ending.

     

    Your Turn

    In the comments below, share with us the last line or last lines of your work-in-progress, or any last line(s) you’re particularly proud of.

    Try not to provide any context or explanation. Let the words speak for themselves. (I know that’s difficult, since your readers won’t be familiar with anything that came before. But roll with it.)

    And while you’re here, leave some feedback on a fellow writer’s closing lines. We’re all in this together. And if you help out another writer, other writers are more likely to help you out.

    Even a simple “This makes me want to read more” can provide a boost.

    And so we beat on.

     

    WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is copy editor and fiction editor at the Texas Observer and writes about literature for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2016 writing project that you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coachingprivate instruction and writer’s block counseling services. Join our mailing list and get a FREE writer’s diagnostic, “Common problems and SOLUTIONS for the struggling writer.”

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    John Liebling

    ME, not him. YOUR narrator is aware of the changes to the time line millions of years in the past. Time has once again re-written 21st century human reality. On the ninth day of the conference Dafna and Ima, for the first time in this new reality, encounter the handsome formidable political force – David Sagacious. The world and those characters will never be the same…And that is the moment when they come into contact, for the first time, with two uninvited guests 6’6″ Nephesh and her husband 6’10” Ko’Ach. What has eluded humanity for thousands of years? What are… Read more »

    David Duhr

    This is great, John. Thanks for sharing, and thanks for being bold enough to go first.

    Lucky for me, I already know everything that comes before these lines!

    Bonnie Wulff

    It was an affirmation that sometimes there’s value in going mental over a situation, but she never wanted to go there again.

    David Duhr

    Hey, Bonnie! It’s good to hear from you. Thanks for sharing your words.

    “… she never wanted to go there again” is a clear ending, a window being closed, a lesson learned. I love it.

    Bill McDaniel

    As McCray snatched up the phone to dial 911, he saw clutched in Wendell’s right hand the pale flesh and fingers of his left one.

    David Duhr

    Thanks, Bill. I like this; seems like some falling action after a bloody climax.

    It also strikes me that this would work as a great opening line. As an ending, your reader of course knows what happened. But as an opening line, it would definitely make me want to read the next one.

    Good work.

    Carol Bro

    Suddenly there were two solid little-boy arms wrapped around Danny’s neck. They clung to the father who had been kept so real and alive to him since the day of his birth that total acceptance was instinctive.

    Danny knew in that moment that he was finally and forever home

    David Duhr

    Hi Carol! It’s good to see your name here. Thanks for sharing.

    This is another very conclusive ending, which is what I like about it. I’m guessing it works as a sort of summation of your entire story: Throughout, Danny searches for a home (probably both literally and metaphorically). At the end, he finds it. Classic.

    Jerry Schwartz

    It throbbed and grew as it took everything from her. At last the tree ejaculated into her, filling her with its scalding cum, and with that she finally came. All sensation coalesced into a knot of unbelievable joy. She saw nothing, she heard nothing, she thought nothing, she felt nothing—not even the tree’s bark spreading slowly around her, enclosing what had once been Lenore in an unbreakable embrace.

    David Duhr

    Hey Jerry. Thanks for sharing this. It sure does make me wonder what the hell came before it. And it’s plenty colorful; I’d expect nothing less. Well done.

    John Liebling

    All posts are interesting. Good job everyone. Now I am going to tweak David’s suggestion. Besides giving us an end of the book sentence, or more…as I did…how about a select few of our chapter endings? For example: End of Chapter One (page #21) “Why is my baby’s head dented?” sound of a mechanic hammering out a car’s dent – three loud POP! POP! POP! and HE, WE look normal again. Baby David cries in agony. Christopher shouts, “Doc do something!” End of Chapter Two (page 42) REBIRTH! Oh! Thank god – million and nine memories flood my interactive brain.… Read more »

    David Duhr

    I remember us talking a lot about chapter endings and cliffhangers and “turn-the-page” urgency. I think you’ve got it down pat, my man. Thanks for sharing these.

    Carol Bro

    I’ve got to share the last sentence of the novel I just finished tonight. It’s a brilliant ending for the third of a seven part series — Best Kept Secrets from The Clifton Chronicles by Jeffrey Archer:

    “It was the tutor of Admissions who was given the unenviable task of having to phone the boy’s father to let him know that his son had been killed in a tragic motor vehicle accident.”

    To add to the suspense, there were TWO ‘boys’ in that car, not one. Now, how am I supposed to sleep tonight after a cliffhanger like that???

    David Duhr

    So you don’t even know which boy is dead? What a trick! His publisher was probably thrilled. His loyal readers are probably pulling their hair out. How many times do you think friends, family, and strangers have asked him which boy is dead?

    kia christina

    I knew even then;
    I would be punished for good.
    Seeing the world as I did,
    Once again.
    Not through my mother’s eyes.

    David Duhr

    Thank you for sharing this, Kia. I dig it. Particularly the ambiguity with “for good”; does it mean forever, or does it mean for doing/being good?

    kia christina

    Both.
    Of course.
    I like to take advantage of the concise ambiguity I think poetry provides for.

    Emily Martin

    Coach nodded. “If you need help, you know where to find me.”
    “Okay.” Trent gave Buddy one last pat on his warm, fuzzy head. “Good-bye, Coach.”
    “Good-bye, Trent. I’m glad you were on my team.”
    “Me too.”
    “Drive safe.”
    “That’s no fun!” Trent belted out a demonic Schizo Clown laugh.
    Coach Powers shook his head, folded his arms, and smiled.

    David Duhr

    Hey Emily! I enjoy this. It’s some clear falling action, an amusing little denouement after the climax; a clear wrapping-up of the story. Good work. Your readers are gonna love it.

    Bob Gebelein

    I have done the best I can. Can you do any better.

    kia christina

    Hello Bob,
    You have me very curious!
    Why no question mark at the end of a final question?

    David Duhr

    That struck me too. I like it. It’s one of those question-statements. Meant to imply, I guess, that the “you” could not have done any better.

    Thanks for sharing, Bob.

    And for providing feedback, Kia.

    Writers Services UK

    Yeah every book have unmemorable sentences especially those who related to our current situation because we think that sentences express our story or memory.




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