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. :)
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