Last Lines and Last Paragraphs

When the author pens that last line, even the last paragraph, there is a mix of undeniable emotion. Relief. Satisfaction. Wistfulness. Anxiety. I’ve experienced all of them.

Relief, because the saga is over. I’ve likened delivering a book to delivering a baby. You have the initial burst of joy because the author seizes on an idea. For me, I take approximately nine months to a year, or, from conception to publication. I don’t consider myself to be particularly prolific. Some of my readers marvel that as one book is finished and sent off to my publisher, I begin another. What can I say? The ideas pop into my head and I run with them. But for me, relief is the first emotion I feel.

Then comes satisfaction. I mean, 90,000 words and roughly 400 pages, countless nights of writing, including false starts and slogging through mud, to furiously and feverishly writing and editing until that sentence and paragraph and story is perfect. There is satisfaction in seeing the title and your name under it.

Then comes wistfulness because the last word is written, the last paragraph if completed, and for me, I miss the characters. I enjoy them playing in my head and across the keyboard as I write. The story, at least that story, is finished. Completed. Done. Kind of sad, really.

And lastly, I become anxious. Will the reader love the story as much as me? What will the reviews be? Will someone actually buy and read it or will it sit in a box or on a shelf untouched, unwanted, and unloved? Yes, I still feel anxious upon the completion of a book.

A book, after all, is like a child. You gave birth to the story in much the same way as giving birth to a child. You love that baby and want to see it grow and become full of hope and promise of a future. For an author, the book feels the same.

So, the last line is written. It comes at the end of the last paragraph. I’m not sure who said this, but someone penned that the last line of any book is a promise to the reader. A promise of more to come. The “end” of a book is not necessarily the “ending” of a book. Because at the end of a book is a door to another story.

The last line and the last paragraph are like the photograph taken at the end of a wonderful night. When we look at that photograph, all the memories come flooding back to us. That is what the last line and the last paragraph are meant to do.

Let’s look at some of my last lines and last paragraphs. Here is the last line and paragraph from Betrayed:

He took a deep breath, stood up, and stretched. He wiped his good eye one more time and made sure the patch covered the other. And then he left the room, leaving his door open behind him.

I won’t tell you who “he” is because that would be a spoiler. I can tell you the ending came easily, without any stress or angst or struggle. It fits the story, the previous action, and the character. And most importantly, the end is not the ending. It leads to something beyond Betrayed.

Here is another last line and last paragraph, this time from Spiral Into Darkness:

The last thing Brian remembered before he fell asleep was that he was happy. That, and how much he loved his family.

Considering the last chapter or two and the story as a whole, these last two sentences are significant. There is satisfaction and relief for the reader, and a hope for something to come.

One last example, this time from my first book, Taking Lives, the Prequel of the Lives Trilogy:

At last, after marking every footprint and anything else of note, George knelt down at the boy’s body and touched the boy’s shoulder again.

“I will leave now, but I will be back with help. I will take care of you.”

George walked away slowly, reverently, got on Nochero, took one last look at the dead boy and rode off to call his cousin.

This last paragraph gives you a glimpse into George’s heart. It gives you a glimpse into George’s character. Mostly, as my publisher and I intended, it tells you there is more to come.

One last thing I want to say to you. The last line and the last paragraph are intentional. The author meant to write them that way. For most of us, there is a great deal of thought and effort that goes into them. They are much like the bow on the box or the frosting on the cake. The last line and last paragraph are meant to be the last thought in the reader’s mind.

Here are the links and book description of the three books mentioned in my post:

Betrayed: A Maxy Award Runner-Up! A Literary Titan Silver Book Award Winner!

Now Available in Audio Book, Kindle and Paperback!

A late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family, but no one is willing to talk. A promise is made and kept, but it could mean the death of a fifteen-year-old boy. Seeing is not believing. No one can be trusted, and the hunters become the hunted.

Spiral Into Darkness: Named a Recommended Read in the Author Shout Reader Awards!

He blends in. He is successful, intelligent, and methodical. He has a list and has murdered eight on it so far. There is no discernible pattern. There are no clues. There are no leads. The only thing the FBI and local police have to go on is the method of death: two bullets to the face- gruesome and meant to send a message. But it’s difficult to understand any message coming from a dark and damaged mind. Two adopted boys, struggling in their own world, do not know they are the next targets. Neither does their family. And neither does local law enforcement.

The Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:

FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they don’t know one another, the lives of FBI Kelliher, 11-year-old Brett McGovern, and 11-year-old George Tokay are separate pieces of a puzzle. The two boys become interwoven with the same thread that Pete Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their lives are in jeopardy as each search for a way out.     

Betrayed by Joseph Lewis
Spiral Into Darkness by Joseph Lewis
The Lives Trilogy and Prequel by Joseph Lewis

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