How to end a novel

As I get closer to the end of the “final” (ahaha, right) rewrite of my WIP, I have been thinking a lot about my closing line – and the taste it will leave in the reader’s mouth.

My current closing is a little too … unimaginative.  And, while the first line of a novel is often touted as the most important, I think the impression you leave a reader with is equally – if not more – vital.

When someone closes my book (or shuts down the Kindle after reading my ebook), I’d like them to think:

“Interesting.”

“Cool.”

“Nice.”

Or simply,

“Ahhhhhhh.”

Some reactions I would not prefer:

“That’s IT?”

“What the … ?”

“Seriously?”

Or, as my five-year-old would say,

“Boor – ring.”

So, how do I achieve an ending that can be savored, which will result in involuntary smiles and sighs of delight?

In order to answer this question, let’s look at a few great final words by writers I admire.  Reaching over to my IKEA bookshelf, I’ll pull down a random selection (SPOILER ALERT!):

 “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.“

–F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“‘Tis.”

-Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes

(For extra cool points, the name of the sequel is also ‘Tis.  Nice transition.)

“She called in her soul to come and see.”

–Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

“It didn’t matter in the end how old they had been, or that they were girls, but only that we had loved them, and that they hadn’t heard us calling, still do not hear us, up here in the tree house, with our thinning hair and soft bellies, calling them out of those rooms where they went to be alone for all time, alone in suicide, which is deeper than death, and where we will never find the pieces to put them back together.”

-Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides

“’She said she had learnt one thing from Balzac:  that a woman’s beauty is a treasure beyond price.’”

-Dai Sijie, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

“My youth I am leaving behind.  It will stay always with my precious Seriozha.”

-Ekaterina Gordeeva, My Sergei

Here’s the finale of some young adult books on my shelf:

“Outside, in the living room, his mother had begun to sing.”

-Salman Rushdie, Haroun and the Sea of Stories

“I stayed at the railing long enough to watch a gust of wind catch Jimmy’s jacket and send it whirling around and around in a downward spiral.  Then I remembered my train, and I hurried to the station.”

-Julie Reece Deaver, Say Goodnight, Gracie

“I hold my breath and jump.”

-Hannah Harrington, Saving June

Now here’s one I don’t like:

“Happily ever after.”

EVER?  Really?  That’s just lazy.

In conclusion (ha!), all this study of great final lines brings me to is what I started with – I don’t really know how I want my novel to end.  I just know I don’t like the current closing.  It’s cheesy and predictable and I’m too embarrassed to even share it with you here.

But I’ll keep you posted.

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6 Comments

  1. Congrats at getting to the end! I’m still stuck at the beginning of mine! lol I enjoyed this post and it gives me something to look forward to 😉

    Reply
    • Mamas

       /  March 13, 2012

      Thanks, Kelly Ann! I’m enjoying your blog! And I look forward to reading your FINISHED novel in the future! 😉

      Reply
  2. That’s awesome! I am planning on taking some time to work on a novel and a YA book next year. I am excited but nervous too.

    Reply

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