... you must consider them...
The ending is something special. The ending is the last word. It’s the writer’s final chance to nail his or her point home to the memory of the reader. It’s the moment when you give the reader something to take away from the story and think about.
A good ending absolutely, positively, must do three things at a minimum. It must tell the reader the story was over. It also needs to nail the central point of the story to the reader’s mind. You have to be leaving him with the thought you want him to be taking away from the story. And, it should resonate. You should hear it echoing in your head when you put down the paper, when you turn the page. It shouldn’t just end and have a central point. It should stay with you and make you think, a little bit.
The very best endings do something in addition to that. They surprise you! There’s a kind of twist to them that’s unexpected. And yet when you think about it for a second, you realize it’s exactly right.
Consider these last sentences from “Up in the Old Hotel”, Joseph Mitchell. All these articles were published in The New Yorker from 1938-1992.
From “The Old House at Home”
“In the summer they sit in the back room, which is as cool as a cellar. In winter they grab their chairs nearest the stove and sit in them, motionless as barnacles, until around six, when they yawn, stretch, and start for home, insulated with ale against the dreadful loneliness of the old. ‘God bit wit’ yez,’ Kelly says as they go out the door.”
“Although their stories fascinate her, Mazie is generally cynical. ‘To hear them tell it’, she says, ‘all the bums on the Bowery were knocking off millions down on Wall Street when they were young, else they were senators, else they were the general manager of something real big, but, poor fellows, the most of them they wasn’t ever nothing but drunks.’ ”
From “Lady Olga”
Olga is a bearded lady. Her last sentence is, “ Sometimes, sitting around with the other performers in a dressing room, she will say, with a slight air of defiance, that a freak is just as good as any actor, from the Barrymore’s on down. ‘If the truth was known, we’re all freaks together,’ she says.”
Just a few endings for your thought.
April 4, 2014