This summer I had a goal to finish another novel. And so far I’m right on track and wrote out my epilogue today! However, as I wrote out my last part of my book today I realized how terrible I am at writing last lines. Sure, I can finish up a chapter, or write a conclusion to an essay, but when it comes to novel endings they just end up being a mess.
I’ve only finished four novels, so I haven’t had a lot of practice. But regardless every time I get to the end I sit there and ponder what on earth I need to write to make a proper ending. Half the time it ends up as something awful and cheesy. Hey I write fantasy romance most of the time! Therefore cheesiness is my specialty! The other half is just a line that seems inconclusive and therefore I’m not sure the audience will really feel the book is finished. As a reader I always hate when I turn a page in a book expecting more and then finding it’s the end.
So what makes a perfect last line? In my effort to try to figure out I thought I’d put a few last lines from some books I own to see some examples. So if you haven’t read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Jane Eyre, Lord of the Rings, Little Women, The Last Battle, Grapes of Wrath, and Oliver Twist, don’t read this upcoming section. So here are seven last lines from well known books!
1. “The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well.” Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows
2. “Amen! Even so come, Lord Jesus.”Jane Eyre
3. “He drew a deep breath. ‘Well, I’m back,’ he said.” Lord of the Rings The Return of the King
4.”Whether it ever rises again depends upon the reception given to the first act of the domestic drama, entitled ‘Little Women’.” Little Women
5. “All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” The Last Battle
6. “She looked up and across the barn, and her lips came together and she smiled mysteriously.” The Grapes of Wrath
7. “I believe it none the less because that nook is in a Church, and she was weak and erring.” Oliver Twist
So, in examining these one thing seems clear. There is no right way to write an ending. These are all vastly different. There are biblical quotes, last actions, last words, strange sentences that seem to have little to do with the story itself, or simply a reassurance that all evil is finally gone and the adventure is over.
So I guess in worrying so much about endings I forgot that just like anything else about writing, it’s about personal style. You fit an ending to your book, to how you want it to be. And if you like it, let it be.
Does anybody else have trouble with last lines as a writer? And if you have a favorite last line or something else you’d like to share please do! Maybe I’ll do another blog in the next month about some of the best endings to books. So, contribute and maybe I’ll give you a shout out!