Often when my mind wanders it sparks ideas, this time it asked the question; How does an author know when they've written the last line?
So, I posed that question to author, Terry Persun.
by Terry Persun
The truth is, I don’t know my novel is over for several days after it’s actually over. I’ll write the last line, then revisit the chapter, and perhaps make changes (even to the last line). Then I’ll come back a third day and reread the last chapter again. If by this time it sticks, and I feel it’s over, then it’s over. Not that I haven’t changed a last line months later during rewriting, but usually, it stays fairly in tact.
I can’t say if it’s instinct or not, but most often it isn’t planned. I think the only planned last line I had was with my novel “Ten Months In Wonderland” where I framed the entire book in one image/feel. It goes like this: The Thai air hit him like the thick, high summer heat in the humid Pennsylvania valley where he’d grown up. The choice to frame this book came when I decided that my main character would get dropped into a strange world for the whole novel, not to get out and head back to the real world until the end. Like “Alice in Wonderland”, my character basically falls down a rabbit hole into a world unlike any he’d been in before.
So that was a planned last line. Here’s a last line from “The Perceived Darkness”, totally unplanned: Greg could imagine the sun rising already, even as he stared at the dark branches of the trees, swaying to the hard winter wind.
Endings are probably as mysterious as the stories themselves. I don’t think I know where this stuff comes from, but I do know that I have to write it down when it arrives. And over the years, I’ve become at ease with my writing duties. I try as often as I can to take Ray Bradbury’s advice in “Zen in the Art of Writing”, where he suggests that we combine work, relaxation, and don’t think together. By not thinking too much about what I’m writing, and just sitting down to do the work, I’ve learned how to make it a relaxing endeavor. That’s the best thing in the world.
For the bonus, here are a few of my favorite last lines.
From “Wilderness” by Robert Penn Warren: He could try, he thought, to be worthy of their namelessness, and of what they, as men and in their error, had endured.
From “Last Night at the Lobster” by Stewart O’Nan: It’s late, and he needs to get to bed if he’s going to make it in early tomorrow.
From “I Married You for Happiness” by Lily Tuck: When he sees Nina at the bedroom window, he stops what he is doing and, straightening up tall, he waves to her.
From “The Unlimited Dream Company” by J. G. Ballard: Already I saw us rising into the air—fathers, mothers, and their children—our ascending flights swaying across the surface of the earth, benign tornados hanging from the canopy of the universe, celebrating the last marriage of the animate and inanimate, of the living and the dead.
Forgive me, but this is from “The Witness Tree” by Terry Persun: As you must know by now, we had joined, had learned to become one, together, yet separate in our own worlds.
Terry Persun holds a Bachelor’s of Science as well as an MA in Creative Writing. He has worked as an engineer, has been the Editor-in-Chief of several technology journals, and is now marketing consultant for technical and manufacturing companies. Eleven of his novels, three of his poetry collections, and six of his poetry chapbooks have been published by small, independent publishers. His novels Wolf’s Rite and Cathedral of Dreams won ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Finalist Awards, his historical novel, Sweet Song won a Silver IPPY Award, and his fantasy novel Doublesight won a POW Best Unpublished Manuscript Award (it is now published). His latest science fiction space opera is Hear No Evil, which was a finalist for the International Book Awards (in science fiction). His novel Ten Months in Wonderland was also a finalist for the International Book Awards (in historical fiction). His poems have been published widely in both independent and university journals including Kansas Quarterly, Wisconsin Review, Hiram Poetry Review, and many others.
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The Author in all of us
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