Theme Week: Endings

Last week we talked about beginnings. This week, we're talking about endings.

When I was an English teacher, I had to teach about the NC Writing Exam--a two-page essay every tenth grader was required to complete that was then graded by the state. This was the bane of our existence: like any teacher, I didn't want to teach to the test, but my administrators wanted good scores, so I had to teach to the test, at least to some degree.

But I tried to teach some actual, you know, writing while working on that test.

The state essay was broken up into three parts: introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. In a lot of ways, the conclusion was the least important. In fact, some teachers advised that students just forego it if they ran out of room on the essay form.

But I stressed to my students that often a good conclusion was the difference between getting a passing grade and getting a perfect one.

The same is true with books. A good conclusion is the difference between an okay book and a life-changing one.

And when I write conclusions, the first thing I think about it the same thing I taught my students: find a way to come full circle.

Just like The Hobbit is "there and back again," you need to, on some level, come back to the beginning of your book. It could be a literal return, like in The Hobbit when Bilbo Baggins goes back to the Shire.

But it could be symbolic. The character who started out hating her hometown can end up returning home happily--or leaving it altogether. The character who started out lovesick and end up independent and happy.

If you're struggling with your final chapter, go back to your first one. Find out a way to bring some element--a feeling, an object, a person, a thought, a wish--from the first chapter back into the last chapter. It can be different, but it needs to be there. In your first chapter, you can start with an innocent kiss--but your last chapter can be an impassioned one.

1 comment:

Alex said...

It's also often the final impression one has of the book. I've read some occasionally that fizzle out at the end of the book and that final feeling, of disappointment, is the one I remember most acutely. A reader looks forward to the end to see how everything finishes and if this isn't great, it makes everything look bad.