The Importance of a Strong Closing Line
There is an overwhelming amount of information to explain why the opening line of your book is the most important you will write—and rightly so—but the very last words of your story are extremely important too. Get them right and they have the potential to resonate with a reader, leading them to invest in you as an author. But get them wrong and your words could have a lasting negative impact, leaving a reader unsatisfied and unlikely to want to read any other books you write.
It’s difficult to define what actually makes a great closing line, but there are certainly a few ways in which to give your last few words potency. Here are some things to consider when polishing your final line, with a few examples, which I have used in as vague a way as possible to avoid spoiling the books for you.
A successful closing line could round up the whole story, bringing the main plot points to the forefront of the reader’s mind and reminding them of the journey the characters have taken, and ultimately how they have been shaped by this journey.
And a little later, Sammy and Hero jogged off side by side, down Edwin Street, leaving the fire in the stove upstairs to finish its feast, and to find, on the other side of that feast, a silence of its own.
The Other Side of Silence by Margaret Mahy
This closing line allowed me to understand that the young protagonist’s decision to burn her story in the fire was a positive one, because she was letting go of long-running problems from her past and had a new confidence for the future. As a reader, it left me feeling happy and hopeful for her, and it also gave a refreshing life’s lesson—that we shouldn’t hide behind the rituals and routines of our past and use them as excuses. A closing line that is able to change a reader’s outlook or opinions, by altering their mood and view on life, is a very powerful one.
A successful closing line could give a hint as to what might happen to the characters for the rest of their lives—if you have created well-rounded and realistic characters, they won’t stop existing in the mind of the reader just because the book has closed. A reader will wonder about the character’s next possible steps, and the closing line could offer them insight into that.
Just keep going.
Baby Doll by Hollie Overton
Without reading the book, this final line seems vague and placid, but after taking in the whole story, these last three words left me feeling extremely satisfied. The main character—who is thinking to herself ‘Just keep going’—has been through a tremendous amount in her short life, and with this new mantra of survival, we know she will have a positive future and will scale all hurdles, no matter what.
Another aspect which strengthens this closing line is that it allows us as readers to reflect upon our lives and give us motivation, because if the protagonist can keep going, after all that she’s been through, then surely we all can.
A successful closing line could be a hook—it could leave unanswered questions and create curiosity, leading to interest in a follow-up. This mainly applies if you’re planning to write a sequel, because otherwise leaving elements open-ended could frustrate a reader and leave them unsatisfied. You want to plant a big enough seed of curiosity into your readers to push them into investing in your next book.
And he leaned down to press his cold lips once more to my throat.
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
When I finished the first book in the Twilight Saga, this last line resonated within me, causing me to ask so many excited questions. As a reader, I could play out different scenarios in my mind as to what the outcome could be. I couldn’t wait to read the next book in the series to find out what really happened.
No matter what you decide upon doing for your closing line, there are three boxes it most definitely needs to tick:
- It should have a lasting, lingering effect on a reader—they shouldn’t be able to forget it as soon as they have finished reading your book;
- It should leave the reader with a thorough sense of satisfaction;
- It should give the reader the desire to read more of your writing.
The closing line is what makes the difference between you being an author your fans love, or your book being one that they enjoyed. It’s what makes them curious about the rest of your work and want to invest in you as a brand, rather than seeing you as a one-off read.
If the final line, and the ending as a whole, is weak or seems too fast and rushed, or doesn’t hold the same depth and weight as the bulk if your story, your reader will feel let down and perhaps a little robbed. They have bought into you as a writer, purchased your product, and you need to deliver to the very last word. You need to keep your readers happy and satisfied, intrigued and hooked on you as an author. You want them to become fans of your work, to invest in you, and ultimately leave them with a burning desire to buy more of your books.
Do not underestimate the importance of your closing line.
© 2017 Rebecca Delphine
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
Rebecca Delphine is a Young Adult author from Thanet.