persnickety_pru (persnickety_pru) wrote in hpwriterschoice,

Let's Talk About... Last Lines

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

Fitzgerald had a gift for writing gorgeous last lines, a task many writers find challenging. What does an author say just before she drops the curtain and ends the play? The last few lines are meant to round out a story, reveal a final twist, send the reader back into the real world with a happy smile or a broken heart. Bland and lifeless endings are so disappointing, but great last lines stay with you forever.

Readers and writers, how important are last lines? Do they affect your memory of the piece? What are some of your favorite last lines? (Post them here and we'll see who can guess the most!)

Writers, are first lines or last lines more difficult to write? What are your favorite last lines from your stories?

Think you're good at last lines? See if you can guess these...

Published Fiction

1. "After all, tomorrow is another day."
Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell

2. "I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath, and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers, for the sleepers in that quiet earth."
Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

3. "He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning."
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

4. "She looked up and across the barn, and her lips came together and smiled mysteriously."
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

5. "Turning him over one saw that he could not have suffered long; his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come."
All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque

6. "Yes," she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, "I have had my vision."
To The Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf

7. "And on the way home, she met her brothers, and there was a rough-and-tumble, and the lovely crown was broken, and she forgot the message, which was never delivered.”
Possession, A.S. Byatt

8. "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."
Animal Farm, George Orwell

9. "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."
A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

10. "-- Will you tell us about the other worlds out among the stars -- the other kinds of men, the other lives?"
The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin

Fan Fiction

1. "That night Arthur dreams that he is writing a letter to Percy, scratching the lines deeper and deeper into the paper, but over and over again the letters fade and disappear. In the morning, he wishes he knew what he meant to say; as hard as he tries, he can't remember the words."
Wordless by penknife

2. "The boy in the picture has a ... pet on his shoulder, Sirius sees. A shockingly familiar pet. A rat..."
A Feast in Azkaban by nyxfixx

3. "You will damage him." McGonagall's lips pressed into a thin line. "You can't keep doing this."
"I am the Headmaster, Minerva," Dumbledore smiled pleasantly. "I can do whatever I like."
Lightning Has Just Struck My Brain by mousapelli

4. "You'll have to ask the questions, Remus. But I promise I'll try to answer."
The Skull Beneath the Skin by ellenfremedon

5. "Then she stood on tiptoe, kissed his cheek, and said, “You dear, sweet romantic man.” He wasn’t sure he wouldn’t have preferred the three-hour lecture on Equal Rights."
The Bookshop by shiv5468

6. "He leaves Harry in the kitchen and steps into the bedroom; so dark he almost cannot see the writing on the walls, writing in a hand he still cannot forget. "And this," he whispers, to himself. "Is how much Sirius loved me."
Written By Hand by setissma

7. "Neither of them, however, will ever have the faintest desire to spot a broom, collect a knut, or press a pixie, which just goes to show that some rules are meant to be broken. "
Fly Fishing for Beginners by tryfanstone

8. "She was just etching the final “E” of her final word into the headboard when Draco Apparated into the room."
Room Serviced by pir8fancier

9. "Well," said Albus. "Good enough to be going on with, indeed." He chuckled and let the tablecloth drop. As he walked back to the other teachers, he thought he heard, faintly: "Fuck you."
Oral Sex by isiscolo

10. "Harry grinned. "Sometimes – just once in a while – will you write me a letter?"
Pariah by auctasinistra

Answers added 9.20, but I think you guys got them all--thanks for playing!

Thanks to summerborn who suggested this topic!
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Last lines - esp. in a short story - are very important! One last powerful image can linger for days.

My guesses:
1. Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
3. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
8. Animal Farm by George Orwell
9. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

LOL. Can you tell I taught freshman English?
Freshman English for the win--you've got 'em! Gosh you're brave, Eng101 teachers should be knighted or something. I can barely get through correcting my psych students' papers without wanting to scream.

Do you find first lines or last ones are harder? I always feel like finding the right place to *stop* is the most difficult part--always worrying that the story isn't done when I am.
My guesses:

1. Gone With the Wind
8. Animal Farm


3. Lightning Has Just Struck My Brain, by mousapelli. Fantastic fic, I highly recommend it!
You got both the profic ones and yay! for the awesome Neville fic. That story had such dazzling writing and cool plot twists. But didn't you wish for a sequel where Harry and Neville figure it out in time and join forces to shake things up? Would serve everyone right. Your story "Toys" had a great, satisfying last line, really brought the whole thing full circle. Did you sweat blood over it, or did it just flow?


11 years ago

Guess re: fanfic # 7 - Fly-fishing for Beginners, by Jay Tryfanstone.
You've got it! That line just ties up Fly-Fishing perfectly, doesn't it? I always end that story with such a big smile. Are there other fics whose last lines you particularly enjoyed? :)
I just remembered!

6. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Bingo! Well done. :-)

Any last lines to stump us withshare with us?


11 years ago

Some of my favorite:

"There was some open space between what he knew and what he tried to believe, but nothing could be done about it, and if you can't fix it, you've got to stand it."

"She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see."

"And it seemed as though in a little while the solution would be found, and then a new and splendid life would begin; and it was clear to them that they had still a long, long road before them, and that the most complicated and difficult part of it was only just beginning."

"I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my '_____'"

Um...guess away. ^^
Those are all so beautful! Is "...she called in her soul..." from Their Eyes Were Watching God?


11 years ago


11 years ago

I know one of the fics! 6. "Written by Hand," setissma. Yay, me!

For the published fiction, 2. Wuthering Heights.

And one to enjoy (not to guess, since it gives itself away):

Before reaching the final line, however, he had already understood that he would never leave that room, for it was foreseen that the city of mirrors (or mirages) would be wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men at the precise moment when Aureliano Babilonia would finish deciphering the parchments, and that everything written on them was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth.

Yay! Such a fabulous Remus story, happy and sad all at once. Ashamed of myself, because I've gotten *two* copies as presents, but I've never read the Marquez book--eep! That last line is so beautiful, I'm going to have to get reading. :)
2. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
5. All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque

Fanfic # 4 is a classic Snupin that's escaping my memory at the moment-- oh, wait! Something of Ellen Fremedon's. And #8's an angry-sex Hermione/Draco that has a great Lupin scene ... *flaps hands helplessly*

You got both profics--#5 is apparently good stumper! Sooo close on both fanfics, right author and theme. People have gotten them on the thread. :)
Pro fic:

1. Gone With The Wind

4. The Grapes of Wrath

8. Animal House

9. A Tale of Two Cities

And I *think* 5 is Jude the Obscure.


4. The Skull Beneath the Skin, Ellen Fremedon

9. Oral Sex, Isis.
Right on both fanfics and 1, 4, 9--hee! and 8, because I know what you meant but still funny to picture in juxtaposition! *g* Actually kind of works. 5 was guessed above. Do you have some last lines you've written that you think work really well? I always worry that I should end things on an "up" note, but that doesn't always work for the story.
Hee, number 7 is from Jay Tryfanstone's "Fly-fishing for Beginners"--my favorite last line of all. I'll be back with some of my own!
Yay, you were right! Such an awesome story. Um, hoping I didn't accidentally delete another comment of yours? I deleted somebody's comment somewhere, here or on my own journal, but can't tell where or what or who because LJ comment notifications are all whacked out! If it was you, I'm *so* sorry and hope you'll post it again?


11 years ago

"She heard the echoes of things one wasn't supposed to say aloud."

"Unbelievable, thought Buckbeak. The big dog was one thing but THIS is ridiculous."

"Of all the things he had ever wanted, of every glittering desire that he had mortgaged body and soul for, he could not figure out for the life of him why he couldn't take this, when it was offered free."

Ooh-is the first one "Rule of Law" by Arsenic? Great Hermione/Snape story. Do you have last lines you've written that you love? Or hate? I always seem to think of a better concluding paragraph right *after* I hit send!
I'm almost certain I've read whatever fanfic is #8, but am absolutely unable to remember title or author. *sighs* I'm not supposed to be old enough to have senior moments yet!

In the published fic, others have gotten all the ones I'm certain of EXCEPT:

7. Possession by A.S. Byatt, which is a gorgeous story and I highly recommend it. It nearly gets me to like poetry.

Although #s 5 and 6 sound awfully familiar and I'm going to kick myself when someone says what they are...

Last lines are in many ways more difficult for me to write because I have to have achieved a stopping place, and I'm often not terribly happy with my endings.

Let's see, a couple of mine that I think are not too bad:

Turnabout might be fair play, but Harry resolved to be the winner of this match. -- from Lead Us Not, which was one of the first HP ficlets I wrote. Now AU as it was written pre-HBP.

"But I think after the mess you've made here, you probably deserve another detention... shall we say, Thursday night?" -- from Detention, sequel to the above, but adult PWP, Harry/Draco -- and I don't seem to have ever put it on LJ. Huh.
Isn't Possession gorgeous? It's one of those books that has me in awe from beginning to end.

Last lines tie me up in knots. I hate finishing a story because I feel like it has to be *just so*. And it never is.

The last line of "Detention" makes me want to know how Thursday night goes, which I think is one of the best things for a last line. *g*


11 years ago

Damn, stmargarets already got all the ones I knew. Is #5 Brave New World?
8. "She was just etching the final “E” of her final word into the headboard when Draco Apparated into the room."
Room Serviced!!! I adore that fic far more than is healthy.
You got #8--isn't that fic just delicious? Love how she keeps it so gritty and angry, pretty much the only way I see those two getting together.

~~icon love!~~
I think Fanfic #1 is one of rhoddlet's fics, but everything else I know has been guessed already.

For me, last lines are generally easier, because by the time I get to the end of the first draft I already know what I want to say. At the beginning, I still don't know exactly where I want to go with it, and further drafts will usually produce an acceptable first line, but not an extraordinary one.
Extraordinary lines are wonderful, but I usually look for the first three paragraphs as a whole to either hook me into the story or...not. Killer lines are great, but you have to like the story, too. :)
I think number 1 of the fanfic ones is "Wordless" by penknife.

Personally, I find last lines easier to write, but they're one of my strengths. I'm very fond of the last lines of Deny Thy Father and Mentors, especially.

DTF: On a rainy cold night in December, Sirius Black lost one family. But as James, Remus and Peter gathered around him, he knew he was part of another one.

Mentors: . And before the executioner could push him, Alphard stepped through the veil to his death.

And on an entirely different note:

35 Years of Virginity and Counting: “Padfoot, I’m a virgin, not an idiot,” Remus reminded him patiently. “Get in here.”

Accio Bananas!: "Man," George said as they walked away. "That was one big bite of banana...."

You've got #1--that whole story is just gorgeous. Love *your* last lines--you pick such great titles, too! Accio Bananas sounds like a must-read. :)
Last lines are very important to me -- so much so that I recently did a post on them.

Now for my guesses...

1. Gone With the Wind
4. Grapes of Wrath
8. Animal Farm?
Methinks I've read 5...

2. Is this A Feast in Azkaban by nyxfixx?
6. Written by Hand by casirafics
8. I can't remember the title, but it's by pir8fancier
I swear I've read 4 and 10.
Doh! Got the author wrong on Written by Hand -- should be setissma.


11 years ago


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Though people tend to make a big fuss over first lines, I think last lines are more important. All a first line has to do is lead you to the next line, but a last line has to wrap everything up, give all the preceding lines a sense of completion. I spend far more time on the last line than I ever do on the first.
In her post linked above, secretsolitaire said, "A great last line can be a punchline or a punch to the gut, a question mark or a big fat bow tying everything neatly together." Choosing *which* way to end and then struggling with the finding just right *words* is killer, isn't it? :)

Profic #10 is The Left Hand of Darkness, which I need to reread as soon as I get my copy back from my siseter. All of the other ones I recognize have been spotted already. :)

Last lines, for me, for fic - I tend to like things that end with a punch. Shorter ones, that leave you with some sort of terribly Chekovian pretentious-as-hell feeling of inevitability. Of course, I am probably totally kidding myself about my ability to do this, but I try!

My fics: from Liminal, a story which in a very real sense has every possible ending: Throat dry, he whispered the words that would let him pass through the door - and entered.

And from Lilacs Out of the Dead Land, which is soon to be posted: There was a curious hollow feeling in his chest. He suspected it might be freedom.
Wow, that last line from your new story gave me the shivers! Please post a link when you finish, okay? BTW, totally right on Left Hand--I need to find my copy, too! :)


10 years ago

Here from the Snitch.

1. Gone With The Wind.
2. Wuthering Heights
3. To Kill A Mockingbird.
4. No idea about this one.
5. All Quiet On The Western Front
6. -
7. -
8. Animal Farm!
9. A Tale of Two Cities
10. -

Fun. :) Though I don't recognise any of the fanfic last lines.
Fanfic last lines (and first lines too, which we did last week) seem harder for everyone. I wonder if that's because they aren't as well known in the larger media sense (just google last/first lines, and at least *some* of the ones above will pop up) or if because we tried to pull from a large cross section of pairings/genres....

But the fanfic last lines make for a great way to get new story recs. *g*
Fanfic #10: Pariah by auctasinistra
Yep--isn't that the best story? :)
Fanfic #5 The Bookshop by shiv5468
Yay! for your great memory. That fic was such a fun read! :)
I recognized immediately only the closing line by George Orwell (8). And that one was easy enough for me, too, due to the word “pig”. The one by Dickens (9) sounded terribly familiar, too… Now I realize that I’ve hardly read any of these books, with the exception of Animal Farm, in the original language.

Some of my last sentences in the closing paragraphs I like best look quite simple:

You are the one without hope. (I Don’t Dream)

It’s over, and he lays his body down beside mine. (Let’s Go Home, Pads)

This example above shows how subtle my slash is… And there are two stories I close with words said to Remus. I suppose it’s all right to mention more than one sentence, and in the latter example there are a sentence fragments, too.

“Listen, Moony. It’ll be over in a moment… We’ve paid the price. There’s only hope left.” (His Face Shines in the Gloom of My Parents’ House)

“That is enough of a reason. For anyone to be welcome to stay, I mean. When there’s nowhere else to go.” (Come Up With Me)

I wanted to mention some stories I hadn’t discussed in this community before, but when I choose the openings and closings I regard as the best ones, I seem to end up talking about the same stories. Perhaps these are the best ones among my fics, while I love all the others, too.

After those words he closes the book, and I do as he’s asked me to. (I Am Still the Stray)

Some day, perhaps, I’ll show her all my treasures. Everything I’ll never lose as long as I have my human mind to remember them all and how they used to love me. (Here I Am Anew)

When we soar above the sparkling sea I let him hold me one last time against the piercing air of reborn reality. (Anywhere And Back Again)

I must go and look for some memorable last lines by other writers. At the moment I can’t remember any, but I lay the blame on my memory.
Some terrific ones here. I do like the way they often come to a short phrase, a bit like the last drumbeat in a song.


11 years ago


11 years ago

I do find last lines, just like first lines, more difficult to write than the rest of a story. I think that's because there's a certain pressure on me as the writer: I know that I need to find a special way to start my story to hook readers, and an even more special way to end it so that - hopefully - they aren't disappointed. I don't want people to finish reading my story and think they've wasted their time (which is how I feel often enough when I read). That being said, I think we all have our preferences when it comes to endings, and someone's favourite last line may very well seem bland and disappointing to me.

There's a lesser but similar dilemma about the last line of each chapter, and as a way of practicing my last lines, I've experimented viewing each chapter I write as a separate story of its own with its first lines, background, conflict, resolution (no matter how small) and a temporary ending.

Speaking of my fics, my 'last lines' usually take several paragraphs to make their impact. This is going to sound silly, but the only last line that really works on its own in the stories I've finished so far is, I think, Ron fainted. in Misfortune of a Weasley.
I agree about the last line of each chapter posing a dilemma. I was just rereading Robin McKinley's Sunshine, which has four sections, and at the end of each section, I just had to put the book down for a while. The last line/paragraph of each larger section had such an impact.

It makes me wonder if last lines have an impoact on their own or if their true weight is tied up into the emtional resonance of the larger story.


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10 years ago

I always work harder on last lines than on first lines. I find myself much more often deleting them, rewriting them, tinkering with them, before I post. Often the couple of sentences that lead up to the final one need tinkering, too, to set up the last word.

The cadence is important to me, as is the sentiment, whether it is because I am adding a twist, or just trying to bring the entire thing in for a landing.

There are two different kinds of endings, to me. There are the ones that imply ther eis more to come, but leave the reader on a trajectory to fill in for themselves, and those that actually bring the story to a full stop where everything actually comes to a complete rest.

In a funny story, it needs a "punch line", but I don't usually write funny. Instead of a "comic button" on the end, it may be more of a twist of the knife.

And of course in drabble writing, it isn't even just the last line that I work on, it's the last WORD.

Some of mine:

This is so good. (Draco the Wonder Ferret)

• But I want to keep no secrets from you, Harry, and I've always been a willful boy, haven't I? (Honor)

• If only I'd told you. if only I'd said something. Maybe I could have spared you this. (

• Now the cat and mouse symbolism made sense. (Chocolate)

• And as you know, we've been together ever since. (Captivitas)

• "And, um, Harry? Will you speak Parseltongue? Goddamn, I never knew it was so sexy." (Destiny)

• "Shut up," Draco said, jamming his tongue into Harry's mouth as he climbed on top of him. "I'm not done forgiving you, yet." (Tied)

My favorite last line in my fic is the one for "Tempus" -- but to post it would be too spoilery.
Funny, I never thought about it before, but I tend to like last lines to leave me some things to fill in for myself! Much cooler that way, because my imagination tends to play with the best stories long after they're over. I keep thinking, what if they... maybe he will... wonder if.... Keeps my brain happy for days.

The last lines you quoted above are such good teasers--make you want to see *how* they got to those last words! My favorite last line of yours is from "The Company You Keep":

"He stroked the silky strands of Harry's hair, damp from sweat and glossy as fur."

Always gives me the biggest smile when I re-read. I just loved that image and how it tied into and completed what had come before. So satisfying. :)
Ok, so I didn't post the topic this time, so I feel like I contribute some of my own last lines. *g*

I hate writing last lines. They don't usually flow for me at all. Even when I know exactly *where* a fic should end, I have a difficult time writing exactly *how* it should end. I can spend an inordinate amount of time reading and rereading the fic, trying to figure out which emotion I should evoke at the end, which image I should leave the reader with. Often I just throw in the towel, end the damn story, and send it to the betas.

Here are a few of my last lines. I'm waiting for that magic last line moment, but for the time being, these are the what I have to offer:

"These were the stories of the men and women who had dedicated their lives, their youth, and their innocence to saving the Wizarding world. In a hundred years they might become nothing more than names in a dusty book, but Harry was determined to give them the chance to be something more." (from A Hundred Year's From Here)

"Severus didn’t think he was going to care that Potter stole the blankets." (from Desideratus Revelus, or How Minerva Found her Inner Albus )

Ok, so there are only two. But I realized doing this that (a) I don't love my last lines and (b) I end a lot of fics with Severus. Hmmmm.....
These are both great!
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