Tag Archives: craft

Curtain Calls and Last Lines

If hooking a reader is hard with the first line, leaving them sighing in satisfaction with the last line is even harder. The last line must make a reader want to flip the book over and start again from the beginning, or pull out their phone to call their best friend to talk about it (even if it’s past midnight), or lay in bed staring at the ceiling while imagining and reimagining the scenes that will stay with you.

If it’s the last line of a long running series, bursting into tears would be the most cathartic of releases. The end of the series usually ties back to the first book’s arc, if not the entire series arc.

deathly-hallowsThis time, I’ve listed some of my favorite last lines. Since I mentioned Harry Potter in my first lines blog post, I’ll include the the last lines here:

I’m going to have a lot of fun with Dudley this summer… ~ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling.

A child’s response, for sure. A child with thoughts of revenge, just the smallest types of vengeance for the agony he’s been put through and no less than you would expect from Harry at this point. Harry wants to cause some trouble because he’s always been on the receiving end. He wants to utilize some of the control he’s been given over his magic and his life.

“And quite honestly,” he turned away from the painted portraits, thinking now only of the four-poster bed lying waiting for him in Gryffindor Tower, and wondering whether Kreacher might bring him a sandwhich there, “I’ve had a enough trouble for a lifetime.” ~Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling.

This is the end of the Deathly Hallows book, not the series. The exact opposite of the first book’s ending. Harry rejects trouble. He’ll deal with it if it’s tossed in his path, but he won’t start any trouble. He’s matured beyond the need to cause trouble. A fitting bookend.

All was well. ~ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling.

Another variation of the “and they lived happily ever after” theme. Harry is well, his family and friends are well, and he’ll do his utmost to keep them that way. I love how just a simple line can hold such power.

night-voiceThe problem of figuring out a last line for a series depends on how you feel about epilogues.  Another favorite series of mine is the Noble Dead Saga:

No, it would not be a bad job at all. ~ Dhampir, Barb & J.C. Hendee

This is the end of the book. It gives the reader the satisfaction of understanding the emotional growth of the main characters, the end of their arc for this book. It’s not a hook to continue, which is why you have the epilogue. I understand the need for the epilogue with Welstiel Massing to hook you into reading the next book, but to me it’s more of a back cover blurb than an end to the story. It’s too early in the series for the epilogue to be more than that.

Nothing more needed to be said, though she heard Leesil whisper, whether asleep in exhaustion or not. “Home…” The Night Voice, Barb & J.C. Hendee

The end of the book, but not the end of the series. The main characters fulfilled their destiny and return home, after crawling through ice, fire, mountains, and smoke to get there. The main characters are still devoted to each other, but are ready for a long rest. Their arc is done.

Magiere simply made certain Leesil never knew this. It would be so much the worse if he did. ~ The Night Voice, Barb & J.C. Hendee

You need both sentences for at least a taste of the context. Everyone the main characters care about has a satisfying ending. Maybe not the ending they wanted, but satisfying nonetheless. It also brings the story back to the two main characters, who, in my opinion, got lost during the last third of this series.

There are other last lines for books and series that are just as devastating, but this post is already long enough.

What are you favorite last lines?

My Favorite Hooks

I saw Magical Beasts and Where to Find Them about a week ago. My review is already posted, but regardless of what I thought of the movie itself, it got me thinking about hooks, the first line that’s supposed to pull you into the story. So, I pulled out my copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to read the first line and remember why this series is so beloved:

sorcerers-stoneMr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. ~ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone ~ J.K. Rowling

This is the sort of hook that drives other writers mad. Everything we’re told not to do is right there in that sentence: there’s the passive verb were,  there’s an adverb, there are four freakin’ commas for heaven’s sake. What makes this hook memorable is the attitude. The last phrase — thank you very much — drives the hook. J.K. writes as if she’s your best friend sitting next to you in the high school cafeteria whispering juicy gossip in your ear. Who cares about passive verbs and adverb usage when there’s gossip to be shared? The whole Harry Potter series is written as if it’s gossip you want more of.

I reread the first lines of a few other of my favorite book hooks.

Obviously, without question, she’d lost her mind. Being a psychologist, she ought to know. ~ Jewels of the Sun, Nora Roberts.

Yes, it’s two lines, not one, but you have to read the second line, because the first line is the set-up for the punch-line, which is the second. I’m sure this isn’t the first punch-line used as a description of main character’s state of mind, but this one is oh so very effective. This isn’t just about a heroine destined for romance. The reader knows the heroine’s a fun character with a sense of humor who draws you into her world.

On my seventh birthday, my father swore, for the first of many times, that I would die facedown in a cesspool. ~Flesh and Spirit, Carol Berg.

First person pov naturally pulls you into the story, but here the author introduces the family dynamic that drives the main character into the hell his father predicted. As a reader, you know there will be a heavy price to pay before the hero will overcome his destiny. You read because you can’t imagine how he will survive.

kittyandthemindighthour_coverI tossed my backpack into the corner of the studio and high-fived Rodney on his way out. ~ Kitty and the Midnight Hour, Carrie Vaughn

Another first person pov. This main character exudes confidence, power, and comfort all in one. A reader knows by instinct she won’t stay secure in this happy place, where she can toss her belongings around and high-five the people around her. It’s that sense of a comfortable place that makes you want to stay with her throughout her journey. You want to know if she’ll find that comfortable place again.

There are so many others I’d like to talk about, but then this blog post would become one of those tl;dr types.

What’s the hook of your favorite book?