top of page

And They Lived Happily Ever After or Story Closings

Today’s topic of discussion is Story Closings.

In the previous episode, we explored the importance of crafting a stellar opening for your story. A great opening line is essential as it is the first impression a reader gets of you as a writer and storyteller. However, how you end your story is just as important as how you begin it because it is the last impression your reader gets of your writing and your storytelling.

Think of your story like a magnificent dish set before you. The first taste of the food must be

delicious, but if the last bit sours on your tongue, your entire memory of the meal may be called into question. So then, it is vital that your dish, your story be tasty from first bite to last.

Ah, but here is the hard part… How exactly does one do that? How do you make sure that your last line is as memorable and fulfilling as your first line?

As always, let’s look at a few authors who have mastered this writer’s recipe.

Ending a great novel or story can be surprisingly difficult. As a writer, you want to end with the same hook and bang intensity the story started with, but that doesn’t mean that everything is tied up in a tidy little bow. Some of the best end story payoffs are often a tad unpredictable. Good last lines have the ability to stop a reader cold and completely reorient what they thought they knew about your story or your characters. These closing lines can be haunting, lyrical, humorous, or depressingly maudlin. But what they all do is give the reader some sense of closure even if, like in a series, there is more to come.

A really good last line sticks with us forever. Many writers do it well, but a talented few do it perfectly.

Take the last line in Cormack McCarthy’s The Road.

“In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.”

Personally, I just read this book last weekend, and I wish I had read it sooner. The last line is both haunting and lyrical, and it reminds the reader that life continues regardless of the apocalyptic shenanigans of men. The Earth was here before us and will keep on spinning long after we’re gone. It’s a beautiful, yet somewhat bleak perspective shift that closes out this intimate story wonderfully.

Another pensive ending line comes from an author who made the short list for best opening lines. George Orwell. In his book, Animal Farm, he ends with…

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

This closing commentary is Clemens worthy, in my opinion. With the book’s last sentence, Orwell invites critique into what qualifies as a man, and it reiterates the theme of the entire piece – the human in animal is indeed an animal, so how does it really differ from any other animal especially when that animal walks and talks and destroys just like a man?

Funny story about this book that has nothing to do with the topic at hand, but I thought I might share it. Some 12 years ago, I adopted a rescued kitten. The baby had just been weened and her mother had either abandoned her or was unable to return to her. So, I took her in. Not only had I never had a cat before, most of my life I was strictly a dog person, but this poor thing was a feral cat. So, I did what anyone in my generation would do… I Googled how to socialize a feral kitten.

Wise and all-knowing, Google instructed me to keep her in a small space with a safe place for her to hide, and when I wasn’t there to keep her company, I was to play talk radio so she would grow accustomed to the sound of human voices. Well, I didn’t have a radio, and, in that instance, the internet suggested that I read to her. Easy enough. I took the book I was currently reading and spent a few hours a day reading out loud to her.

It occurred to me, afterwards, that I was reading a book about animal insurrection to a feral cat. Needless to say, I think the book gave her some ideas that I’m still paying for today! Or maybe she’s just a cat and she’s not actually planning my violent overthrow. Who knows?

Anyhoo… Orwell is a master at both novel openings and closings. If you want to emulate an author, you could do far worse that ol’ George.

Another timeless, oft referenced last line comes from gothic author Mary Shelly. In her masterpiece, Frankenstein or alternatively, The Modern Prometheus, she ends saying…

“He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.”

The “he” in this sentence refers, of course, to the monster created by Dr. Frankenstein who at this point is already dead. The monster, knowing he has no life among human men, consigns himself to death. In this line, we see the monster return to distant dark of death from which he was created. It is a fitting and rather poetic closing of a circle and a great ending line.

Those are just a few examples of authors who know how to nail that last line, but how can you do it? Well, here’s a few tips and tricks to help you write memorable last lines of your own.

Tips & Tricks

Here are my 4 tips to creating a great opening line for your story.

Tip #1 - Utilize Your Title or Your Opening Line

I love symmetry. When I write a story where I am able to use my title or my first line as my last line, it just makes me feel… I don’t know. If there are any The Magicians fans out there, well it makes me feel like I’ve eaten one of those happy cupcakes. Suffice to say, it feels quite good. It is closure of a different sort. And it is a definite signal to the reader that this particular story is at an end.

Tip #2 - Search Your Last Chapter

Sometimes, you may discover that you have already written your last line, but it’s in the wrong place. A great strategy is to reread your final chapter, section, page, or paragraph. Often the perfect ending line has already been crafted by you. It just needs a change in location.

Tip #3 - Utilize Major Themes or Symbols

You’ve written a story for a reason. There is something you want to say, show, or explore. This ‘something’ is generally your theme, and there is no better linchpin for that theme then tying it to your last lines. Search your work for thematic motifs and symbology you can reintroduce at the close of your writing. You don’t want the simple and rather elementary “moral of the story” kind of reference; after all, you didn’t write a PSA. But if you can find a way to reinforce your theme without actually saying it… well, you are well on your way to crafting a spectacular close.

Tip #4 - Start with the End

There are some authors, and I admit I am not one of them, who begins their work by writing the last line first. While I can see the advantages of doing so, it’s really not how I operate. That said, is this something you already do? If so, I’d love to hear from you and how you go about it. Drop me line, share your experience, and I’ll share it on the show during a future episode.

So, we talked about it. We’ve explored examples and we have a handful of tips and tricks at our disposal. Now, let’s put our pens where are words are and put what we’ve learned into practice!


Here is your bi-weekly Wordsmith Challenge!

In no more than two sentences, write a closing line designed to satisfy, surprise, or provoke your reader into thought. Once you’ve written your closing, you can email it to The best openings will be highlighted in a future episode and on the website!

And if you don’t want to share your work, that’s okay too. The important thing is that you’re writing and trying something new. That’s how writing gets better! Even if you hate what you wrote, the practice will pay off.

If you enjoyed the show and would like to hear more, please click subscribe so you never miss an episode! Keep writing and remember… Everything’s All Write!


Featured Posts
Check back soon
Once posts are published, you’ll see them here.
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page