By John Gilstrap
As an author, I believe that I make a silent contract with my readers to provide them with a complete entertainment experience. The suspense is a given (I hope) but there are also the light moments, the warm moments, and even the occasional tear-jerking moment. If I do my job right, I’ll hook ’em with the first line, run them through a roller coaster through all the middle chapters, and then, at the end, leave them feeling . . .
Well, it depends. More times than not, I want that last moment we have together to be one of those where you gently close the book, maybe squeezer it a little, and then say, “Jeeze, I wish it wasn’t over already.”
Think about all the ink we’ve spilled here in the Killzone talking about kick-ass beginnings. I think that endings are even more important. It’s not just about tying up loose ends, either, although obviously that’s important. I’m talking about that final note in the literary symphony. Is it a cymbal crash or a sweet pianissimo? Maybe we want them to have trouble reading through their tears.
Whatever our plan, it’s up to us and us alone to make it happen. That last scene—the last moment my readers and I have together—mean a lot to me. I agonize over it. I look at those last sentences as the final clause in the contract that I make with the people who choose to read my work.
I’m a student of last lines. Here are some of my favorites:
“And in the middle of them, with filthy body, matted hair, and unwiped nose, Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.” — William Golding, Lord of the Flies
“He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.” – Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird
“But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can’t stand it. I been there before.” –Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
“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.” –Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
“Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.” –Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind
“But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.” –A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
“. . . together they cried like babies on national television.” – John Gilstrap, Nathan’s Run
Come on, you must have a favorite finale to share. Let’s have it.