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!

The Need To Read

Lately I have felt a nearly insatiable need to read. It started at the end of last year. 2015 was winding down and, as I am sure many people do, I was reflecting upon my accomplishments for the year. I had made headway in the revisions of my novel, I had run my first (and most likely last) 5K, but most importantly I had survived my first full calendar year as a mom. I was proud of what I had done, but there was one gaping hole in my list:

What Books Had I Read in 2015?

I searched my mind for recent stories. I came up with Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and countless other children’s stories I had read aloud to my son.

No good. I was looking for “me books.”

I thought some more. A couple of stories popped into my head like California, and Guy In Real Life, but then I realized I had listened to both of those books (and a bunch more–like the entire series of the Demon Hunting Soccer Mom by Julie Kenner) as audiobooks. This was a little bit better – it means I had fed my brain some stories, but what practice did my eyes have in seeing words? The ultimate answer frightened me: none.

Is Any Excuse Acceptable?

This has happened to me before. I once went over two years without reading a single story (not even a children’s book). It was one of the most heartbreaking times of my life. When I came out the other side, I promised I would never – if I had the power to – allow it to happen again. That time I had a pretty good excuse: I was legally blind, I couldn’t see the words even though I wanted to.

What was my excuse this time? I was tired. Pathetic, I know. But to those who understand the term I will say this: I was parent-tired. Wait. It’s more than that. I was first-time-new-parent-tired. To those who have never walked that walk, I’m sorry, there are no words that can describe it . To those who have, I am sure you get why I have forgiven myself!

Reading Forward

Beyond forgiving myself, I also began to understand why the craving to sit in my armchair in my front window cuddled up with a book and no one else in the house was suffocating me. I looked at my nightstand – there sat the two books I had bought myself last year (I only bought two books?! Still shocking.): New Yorked by Rob Hart, a local author I wanted to support, and Go Set A Watchmen by Harper Lee, my heroine for life. It was time I picked one up and figured out how to read as a mommy. To my utter astonishment, local loyalty won the day – I picked up New Yorked and gobbled it whole (my review), and purchased the next book in the series. Then I found The Magicians by Lev Grossman, fell quickly into book love and then, most surprisingly of all an ARC of Lily and the Octopus was mailed to me and I fell into deep, deep agonizing book obsession. As a reader, I could safely say I was back on the wagon, but one thing was still amiss.

Where are my YA Reads?

I write YA. I need to read YA.

I didn’t know where to begin. I had been out of the loop too long. I know there is no such thing as “catching up” in the world of missed reads, but there must be some signpost to at least direct me to books I needed, right?

Right.

No. I am not kidding. I found it. Enter FOREVER YOUNG ADULT to my rescue.

http://foreveryoungadult.com/about

Their tagline: A site for YA readers who are a little less Y and a bit more A.
(image from their ABOUT page)

These wonderful people not only have the world’s best website for someone like me, they also have a BOOK CLUB! Here’s what they have listed for their upcoming reads:

March Selection: AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir

April Selection: THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER by Sarah Dessen

May Selection: THRONE OF GLASS by Sarah J. Maas

June Selection: DUMPLIN’ by Julie Murphy

July Selection: CARRY ON by Rainbow Rowell

August Selection: SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA by Becky Albertalli

The best part? I have not read any of these yet. So…

image

I’m ready!

April here I come. I basically ran to my bookstore to get this book. I have somehow missed out on reading any Sarah Dessen thus far in my life and I am looking forward to changing that!

My question:

WHO WANTS TO JOIN ME?