In my last year of uni, I gate crashed one of my sister’s writing residentials and spent a week at a lovely house in Wales being tranquil and writing poetry. Well, ish.
While I may not have got a great deal of actual writing done, it was at least calm and tranquil. That is until my sister’s book sailed across the bedroom and she started swearing and gesticulating wildly. I looked up from my blank sheet of paper and waited for her to explain.
‘Read the last line!’
I did. I laughed, but I could see why she was so annoyed. She’d just read roughly 100,000 words of a book, only to hate the last line so much that it ruined the entire story for her. She may even have gone through the stages of grief:
‘It can’t end here, this can’t be the end.’
‘Why would they write that?! I can’t believe I just read that!’
‘Maybe there’s a sequel that would redeem it…’
‘I just wasted hours of my life reading that.’
‘I’m starting a new book and forgetting that one ever existed.’
On the rare occasion that I’ve written enough of a story to actually reach the final line, I always find myself thinking about my sister and her anger over a terrible last line. The last line is important, perhaps the most important. The first line can be helped along its way by the lines that follow, but the last line has no outside help.
I once wrote an entire extra chapter in a story just to accommodate the last line. It genuinely scares me, the fact that the last thought that any reader will have of your story, no matter what may have come before it, rests on those last few words.
I have yet to come up with a perfect last line, though not for lack of trying! But here are a few of my favourites:
‘Ah, Arutha, you take all the fun out of life!’ – Magician by Raymond E Feist.
The third book in the series ends almost identically with; ‘Ah Arutha, You still take all the fun out of life!’
‘[Atticus] would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.’ – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
‘I ran with the wind blowing in my face, and a smile as wide as the Valley of Panjsher on my lips. I ran.’ – The Kite Runner by Kheled Hosseini.
‘I’m going to have a lot of fun with Dudley this summer…’ – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling.
And possibly my least favourite: ‘All was well.’ – Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows.
Do you any favourite or hated last lines? For those of you that are wondering, the line that my sister was shouting about was something like this:
‘Everything will turn out alright in the end.’
‘It doesn’t feel alright.’
‘That’s because it isn’t the end.’
I honestly can’t remember what the book was and that might not be a direct quote, but the very last line is definitely right!