Got endings on my mind. Saw this sunset while crossing an old stone bridge yesterday. The thing about sunsets is we say goodbye to the day and know another will come tomorrow.
When we come to the end of a novel, we want to feel that way, too. There should be a sense of satisfaction but not finality to the lives and world we entered. I stumbled across an article online today in The Irish Times that I found helpful as I approach writing the conclusion of my YA novel, Sea Daughters.
Several authors were asked about how they write endings and if they had any favorites. To read the whole article, click. I've pulled out a few highpoints that resonated with me.
"The best last line should be like a stone dropped in the pond, settling off ripples." That is from Jon McGregor (IF NOBODY SPEAKS OF REMARKABLE THINGS) .
I like the quiet reflection in that quote. Sometimes when I close a good book, I feel as if the story is rippling through me and I need to be still and let it finish reverberating. Have you ever heard a Tibetan singing bowl? It's like that.
McGregor chose a favorite last line from Per Petterson's OUT STEALING HORSES. "You do decide when it hurts."
I've never read that book, but the final sentence is not one you'd turn your back on. It has such power and depth.
Tana French (IN THE WOODS) made an analogy to nature when discussing last lines. "It does need to bring the book to rest, like you're bringing a bird in to land after a long flight."
Once again, I like the sense of reflection, not closure, in this approach.
Gerbrand Bakker (THE TWIN) pointed out a similarity between ending a novel and finishing a poem that speaks to me as a sometimes writer of both. "An ending is very hard, I find; one tends to want to write too much in the end. I always strike the last two to four last lines when I write a poem, something that usually makes the poem much stronger."
Sometimes we don't trust ourselves or our readers to "get" it, I think, so we go on, burying our killer line in verbosity.
Hugo Hamilton (DISGUISE) brought up advice I'd heard before that there is a connection between the opening and ending of a good novel. "The walk-away line at the end of a novel is just as important as any opening line. It's like closing the door on the story but also leaving it ajar--"
In October, I wrote another post on last lines, including some picked by editors at the American Book Review and some favorites of mine. Please check it out if you're interested. Do you have books that left you wowed by the way the author wrapped up the story?