Friday, June 14, 2013

HAVING THE LAST WORD/Jean Harrington

HAVING THE LAST WORD/Jean Harrington

                The last word.  The end of the argument, the witty come-back, the perfect retort.  Who doesn’t love having the final say?  I guess we all do from time to time, even the peace-makers among us, but for the writer, always getting the last word is part of his job description. 
You type “The End” with enormous satisfaction knowing in the line or two above you’ve written the last and final sentence of your book.  Those endings are tricky little devils to write too.  They should leave the reader with a sense of completion, the feeling that the story is well and truly over, that the book can be closed with a sense of fulfillment and perhaps just a tad of regret it came to an end.
We all have our favorite story endings, and in addition to “happily ever after” here are a few of mine:
“(he) felt utterly helpless; he could only hope that she would be given the very best care.  She was going to need it, or she would die.”  The Girl Who Played with Fire/Stieg Larson 
“Many had died.  But not she, not he; not yet.”  The Great Fire/Shirley Hazzard
“Capturing her mouth with his, he stepped onto the wide platform and tumbled her onto the bed.”
Betrayal in Death/ J. D. Robb
“Ming went out to dinner—the restaurants hadn’t closed—with her foreign lover, gushing over drinks and noodles with the extraordinary events of the day, then walked off to his apartment for a dessert of Japanese sausage.”  The Bear and the Dragon/Tom Clancy
“I’ll think of it all tomorrow, at Tara.  I can stand it then.  Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back.  After all, tomorrow is another day.” Gone with the Wind/Margaret Mitchell
“You know something, Rossi, I could kill you.”
“Too late, Mrs. D.  You slayed me the first time we met.”  Designed for Death/Moi   
Examples like this could go on forever, of course.  But what I found interesting in this list of final passages is that each one is a hook that could lead to another book.  So who’s to say the last word really is the end?
BTW, do you have a favorite?


4 comments:

Anne Marie Becker said...

Wow - I never thought about last lines being hooks, but all of those you quoted definitely are. I don't remember any off the top of my head, but did remember I was struck by THE TALE OF TWO CITIES, so I googled it:

"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."

Rita said...

My Goodness! I'm with Anne Marie. I never thought of the ending lines. And thanks Jean now I'll have to come up with ending hooks also :-)

Marcelle Dubé said...

An ending works best for me when it echoes the beginning, bringing the story full circle, in a way.

Interesting post, Jean!

Jean Harrington said...

Oh Anne Marie, love that "Tale" ending. It's perfect--and famous, justly so. Thanks to Rita too. I'll bet if you check back on your own works, you'll see the hooks there, maybe bringing the plots full circle as Marcelle suggests. Thanks for your comments, everybody.