jeannineatkins (jeannineatkins) wrote,

Looking for Last Lines

Yesterday my attention was snagged by a picture of red-brown ants crawling over drying, leaves. But, reading the comments on Tracy’s blog , apparently not everyone found the picture as stunning as I did. So if you click the above link, depending on how you feel about insects, you may want to go straight for Tracy’s words. She wrote about reaching the end of the novel she’s writing. She knows the end of her narrative, but is wondering about the last few lines. What exactly should they sound like? What are just the right words to wind things up or open them out? Will it be dialogue or description, a character’s action or a thought?

I’ve been there, feeling both stuck and hopeful. In the comment section I wrote:. Linger. Bite your nails. Sleep on it.

This is what popped into my mind about how I’ve handled last lines. Lingering: sometimes staring at the page, though staring out the window usually works better. Biting my nails: I obsess, but it doesn’t help as much as setting the question in my mind then stepping away, talking a walk or taking a nap.

This morning, because I’m very fond of Tracy, and, I suppose, offering unsolicited advice, I’m thinking of other ways I’ve looked for endings. Many times I’ve lopped off some lines and found the right ones buried just a little bit back. Is there a clue in my title? Or on the first page? Do I swing back from where I began or further away?

Sometimes I’ll look at how other writers handled this, maybe reading some poems that have entirely different subjects but noting the strategies for ending: do they land on an image or question, does the view widen or get smaller? A technique such as this can be borrowed and made your own. (And maybe it's just getting out of your head for a while, and into another's, that's helpful.)

Since I think first with pictures, moving away from that and playing more with sounds can work for me. I like to switch from thinking of what I do as writing, to find parallels in music, art, dance, some other form less embedded to literal meaning. Is the sound one I want? Is the weight too whispy or too heavy, the balance right or off just enough? Is there an interesting shift in color?

Do I hear a Huh? I go back.

Or The End? Maybe that’s too much of a thud.

Or is that mystery and resolution curling together?
Tags: writing process
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