*Nonfiction* and *Fiction*
Ladies and gentlemen. We come to it at last.
You’ve striven all year toward a difficult goal. You’ve pushed yourselves further than you thought possible. You’ve struggled and sweated and cried tears of frustration.
And now, here we are, at the end.
You are about to finish your book.
No, no, that’s too subdued. Let’s try this again.
YOU’RE ABOUT TO FINISH YOUR BOOK!
So now you face one more dilemma before you can complete your first draft, hit “save,” and run around your house with your arms in the air, screaming “Woo!”
You must find the right sentence to end your book.
Fiction or nonfiction, a good ending line for your book will do one of three things:
1. It will make the reader feel. (Emotive)
2. It will make the reader think. (Contemplative)
3. It will make the reader act. (Active)
You can of course do any combination of these, but one will usually overshadow the other. If you’ve written a romantic fantasy, your last line might make the reader wipe a tear from her eye, flop back on the couch pillows, and sigh with a contented smile. She might also think about her own romantic partner, but the primary reaction will be emotive.
Your science fiction cautionary tale might make the reader compare the action of the story to current events and evaluate his own role in them. He might also decide he needs to change some of his habits, but the primary reaction will be contemplative.
Your business fable might make the reader nod, write down some notes, and go to her computer to start a new project plan. She might also feel excited about starting a new chapter in her work life and thoughtful about what that will mean for the future, but the primary reaction will be active.
Your book’s last line should match up with the primary state of being you want to impart to your reader. There are many ways to do this, but here are a few ideas that might get you started. Don’t try to use all of them at once. Your last line is not a construct of rules, but should flow from your heart. Take them as guidelines to help you channel yourself onto the page.
1. Use the right verb.
Use strong verbs that resonate with the vein you want to convey.
Emotive: charged (anger), flew (excitement), caressed (tender), etc.
Contemplative: wondered, believed, trusted, doubted, waited, etc.
Active: change, move, break, form, create, build, start, stop, live, etc.
2. Use the right nouns.
Use nouns that resonate with the vein you want to convey.
Emotive: internal things like sensory information (sight, sound, scent, touch), body parts, etc.
Contemplative: external things like societal traits, groups of people, nature, architecture, etc.
Active: not-yet-manifested things like aspects of the future, states of being, etc.
3. Inform the reader that things are settled.
Use a sentence that conveys the new paradigm that exists because of the events in the novel or the information in the book.
Works well for: Emotive
4. Inform the reader that things are not settled.
Use a sentence that conveys the unsettled state of things left over at the end of the book.
Works well for: Active and Contemplative, and for uneasy Emotive states.
5. Tell the reader what to do. (Nonfiction only)
Flat-out say to the reader, “Now that you’ve read this book, go do this.” Except say it more artfully.
Works well for: Active.
6. Foreshadow what happens next. (Fiction only)
Give the reader a hint of the things to come in the next book in your series, or in the rest of the characters’ lives. Use the right verbs and nouns to match the state of being you want to convey.
Works well for: Emotive and Contemplative.
You’ll tweak your last line as you edit your book, so don’t worry about getting it perfect. Find something that makes you feel finished with what you have to say, and then write it down.
Congratulations. You have written a book.
Next month we commence editing, kids! But for now, celebrate!
*This Week’s Word Count*
Your book is as long as: The books of all the winners of NaNoWriMo
Your book is as long as: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde