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Five Endings



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The last sentence of a novel or story is the final note you leave with the reader. It’s the question they continue to ponder, the mood infusing their day, the taste in their mouth...

The last line is a vital element of the reading experience, and must do justice to all the sentences that have come before it. And yet, as writers, we are often flummoxed by how to end a piece. It’s tough to get that last note right!

Read through the examples below, each of which offers a different form of ending, and then craft five of your own alternative endings for a piece of fiction you have in the works.

WITH A CONCLUSIVE THOUGHT:
  • Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, I have had my vision. (From To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf)
  • Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past. (From My Antonia by Willa Cather) 

WITH A STEP BACK:
  • But that is another tale, and as I said in the beginning, this is just a story meant to be read in bed in an old house on a rainy night. (From Oh What a Paradise It Seems by John Cheever) 

WITH A SHORT DECLARATIVE STATEMENT:
  • He loved Big Brother. (From Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell)

WITH AN EMOTION:
  • It was a fine cry—loud and long—but it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow. (From Sula by Toni Morrison)

WITH A PIECE OF ADVICE:
  • Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody. (From The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger)

WITH A DESCRIPTION:
  • Up out of the lampshade, startled by the overhead light, flew a large nocturnal butterfly that began circling the room. The strains of the piano and violin rose up weakly from below. (From The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera)
  • He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance. (From Frankenstein by Mary Shelley)
  • I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath, and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth. (From Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë) 

WITH A PROJECTION INTO THE FUTURE:
  • She was seventy-five and she was going to make some changes in her life. (From The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen) 

WITH A LINE OF DIALOGUE:
  • “Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” (From The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway)

WITH A SENSORY DETAIL:
  • He heard the ring of steel against steel as a far door clanged shut. (From Native Son by Richard Wright)
  • There was the hum of bees, and the musky odor of pinks filled the air. (From The Awakening by Kate Chopin)

* Please include a brief summary of what's come before (as Lauren Nelson does in "Arrows of Artemis"), or provide an excerpt (as lulumelon does here).