Last Lines

This week’s flash fiction prompt from Chuck Wendig is so short one can almost misconstrue it as easy. Here it is:

Your task this week is simple:

I want you to come up with a single sentence.

Just one.

No more than thirteen words long.

That’s it? I thought initially, until I started to really think about it. In another blog-life I ran a prompt series called “Modeling Monday” in which I used first sentences as an inspiration for creating fiction, but last sentences never caught my attention in the same way. This week’s prompt has me wondering: What IS a last sentence?

I only know one way to attempt to answer this question: read last sentences!

So that’s what I’ve been doing, reading and collecting sentences, looking for patterns, trying to answer my question of what the heck a last sentence should look like. I’ve been unable to come up with an answer, as in I do not see a singular type of last sentence, I see many.

Here is a collection of last lines from a bunch of books I love, and what purpose I think they serve.

** WARNING! THERE ARE STORY SPOILERS AHEAD! **

The Crystal Ball Last Sentence


Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes:

“P.S. please if you get a chanse put some flowrs on Algernons grave in the bak yard.”

Oh my dear, dear Charlie… Can we gush about this book for a minute? Just reading this one sentence brings back all the feels for me. In my humble opinion, it’s an incredible last sentence.

As the story of Charlie’s experimentation comes to a close, and the novel concludes, Daniel Keyes uses a note about our furry friend Algernon to steal away all of those post-reading nagging questions like, “I wonder what will happen to our protagonist next…” First, the physical structure of the sentence (similar to many before it) demonstrates Charlie’s cognitive decline with heartbreaking clarity to all who have read the whole book through. It is clear that Charlie is following in Algernon’s paw-steps (is that ridiculous? Should I have just written footsteps?). Which takes us to our crystal ball — the flowers for Algernon’s GRAVE — the readers now know exactly what happens next for Charlie and they can go ahead, put their book down, find a box of tissues, and look for someone to hug.

The Mission: Accomplished Last Sentence


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling:

“All was well.”

Harry Potter had a really crappy childhood — parents murdered, unloving and abusive adoptive family, and — oh yeah — a dark lord of magic and all of his followers seeking to murder him. For seven books readers followed along this story and felt deeply that Harry would come out ahead — safe, loved, protected — but we never really knew it for sure until JK shared these three simple words: “All was well.” With that simple send-off the reader could shut the book and exhale, realizing all at once that was all we needed to know. We could be okay with an unknown Potter future as long as we could believe that, in the end, all would be well for our protagonist.

The Character-Focused Last Sentence


To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee:

“He [Atticus] would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.”

The final sentence of To Kill A Mockingbird leaves the reader with an image of the unshakeable character, Atticus Finch, in his role as protective father. The reader is left knowing with full certainty that Atticus will stay there all night because that is what is in his nature. This sentence hearkens back to a point earlier in the story when Atticus waited outside a jail to protect Tom Robinson from a lynch mob, so it leaves the reader with a very clear message about who the narrator deems the hero of this story.

The Theme, In A Sentence Last Sentence


I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly:

“We are stronger than we think.”

While one can argue that most last sentences tap into the larger theme of the story it concludes, in the case of I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly the last line declares, quite literally, one of the major themes of the entire story. It is simple, powerful, and gives readers pause upon reading it.

The Full Spiral Last Sentence (AKA – The Sequel Prepper)


The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan:

“I asked Argus to take me down to cabin three, so I could pick up my bags for home.”

Upon reading the last sentence of the first book in the Percy Jackson series I was reminded of the last sentences of the first bunch of Harry Potter books. They all feel like our protagonist has come full circle… almost. So in this last sentence of The Lightning Thief we see that Percy is heading back home, which will bring him back to a place and circumstance(s) similar to those where we first met him in the beginning of the book, BUT the mention of “cabin three” reminds the reader that Percy now has a place in a new community which can never be taken from him.

These Endings Are Just the Beginning

This was, by no means, meant to be an exhaustive list of last line types. Do you have a fav that served a fantastic purpose you’d like to discuss? Let me know in the comments below.

My Last Sentence

In the meantime, this whole discussion was inspired by a prompt. A prompt that asked me to come up with a last sentence. Well… I finally did. Here it is:

I watched the butterfly escape the spiderweb and I laughed.

Any thoughts about what kind of story this might be concluding? I have some thoughts of my own, but I’m curious to hear about your impressions from just one concluding line. Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

#FlashFiction: After the Rain

~ after the rain ~

photo by Lisa Holder

 

The rain stops, I wait for the song. It’s around noon, so there’s a chance it’s coming no matter what Mama says. She doesn’t believe in the music, but she can’t hear the way I do, just like I can’t see the way she does. She’ll be coming any minute to say we need to get outside for our daily dose of sun and fresh air.

The floor creaks in the hallway, two steps outside the bathroom door, seven steps from mine. Here she comes.

“Okay my little flower, looks like Mother Nature’s giving us a little sun time! Up and at-em!” she says, with a hint of forced joy. She’s down today. She always misses Dad in the rain. I always miss him when I smell coffee or rye toast.

“Is the sun actually shining Mama?” I ask, yearning for the warmth of it to melt away too many hours of forced air conditioned air off my skin.

“Looks like we have one more cloud to get out of the way. I’ll bet we have full sun by the time we get out the door.” She puts a tender hand in the middle of my back and I know she still thinks I need her guidance to “see” my way out of the house. It’s so hard for those of you with eyesight to get it. I have my own way to see around this world. My touch, my hearing, my memory — they all get me around with the same fluidity as you.

Mama grabs my elbow as I get to my feet and I realize she needs this touch more than I ever will, so I sink in and take the lift she offers.

Forty-two steps to the door. Two stairs off the porch. We sit down on the still-moist grass beneath us and I smell the irises I was named after. Mama planted all around the front of our home, there’s no way to ever get lost with that aromatic calling card always leading me back to my front lawn.

A breeze picks up, whistling through the fence that sits between our house and the Miller’s next door, then lifting the hairs on my arm .

“Bye-bye cloud,” Mama says and I can hear that her head is tossed back. She’s talking to the sky. “See you next time.” She’s talking to Dad. I put my hand on top of hers in the grass and toss my head back to get the full feel of the heat pouring down. And, as I do, the song begins.

It’s faint, but I hear the quiet melody of roses harmonizing with citrus — oranges, lemons, and limes — followed by the sweet song of ocean and sky, and the refrain comes to an end with midnight and irises. I begin to hum along and sway to the song from nowhere that no one else can hear and my heart breaks for all of you. How I wish I were talented enough to translate this into a composition to be played with man made instruments, though I doubt they are capable of bringing this beauty to life in the same way I hear it so clearly. My sun song, my after-rain reprieve, the melody of magic, of hope and joy, the musical mark that the storm has passed and Mama won’t be sad anymore.

I breathe deep, smelling the moisture cooking off the grass beside me while feeling just like an actual iris. I drink in both the water as it soaks into my jeans, and the sun as it beats down on my flesh. I curl my fingers around Mama’s, sure that these are the roots keeping me tethered to this Earth. That’s when a warm drop of moisture lands on the back of my hand. It’s not a raindrop.

“Mama, why are you crying?”

She sniffs quickly. “Baby, I’m sorry… I just…” She stops, exhales, and in between her breathing my sun song is getting louder. I know she’d be cured of all of this sadness if she could just hear one refrain.

Roses…

     oranges…

          lemons…

               limes…

                    ocean…

                         midnight…

                              irises.

Hear it, Mama. Just listen.

She breathes in again. “I just wish you could see it, even if it were just once. It’s a rainbow, Iris. It’s so beautiful.”

My own tear falls down where Mama’s had, not because I wished I could see, but because I realize that I did. “Mama, I can hear it.”

~THE END~

This story was written in response to a Flash Fiction prompt presented by Chuck Wendig on his blog terribleminds. This week Chuck challenged us to check out the Twitter account @MagicRealismBot and to pick a tweet to use as a prompt to write a story up to 1500 words long. This is the tweet I chose:

link to photo used in this post:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/lisaholdernc/23675016949