Monday, March 9, 2009

The Last Line

Today's post involves work. But relax, I've already done it all, I'm just going to take you through the process.
What process? The process of writing that last perfect line for a contest entry.

So here's how it was going. I wanted to enter a contest. Fortunately I had a scene that ended on page 25-which is how many pages the contest requested. So far so good. But I didn't like the last line I was leaving with the judges. It was an okay line and played a significant role in the story, but it wasn't the "hook" or "question sentence" I wanted the judge to read last. Here's how it was.

Even the hot August night in Georgia couldn't keep me from shivering at those thoughts.
I couldn't work with Stephen.

So, that's what I was staring at. The fact that my heroine couldn't work with Stephen is very significant. But I wasn't liking it. And I wasn't sure why. So I pondered. I needed to email the entry Sunday by 5 oclock....I knew Sunday was going to be very busy, so my deadline was Saturday night. I started thinking about this line Thursday night as I was preparing the entry. For two days I thought about this. Saturday night hubby and I went to a coffee shop for an open mike night. I had a couple of hours to think....and while I was sitting there this line came to me. "Would I ever be okay again?"
Now, I know that's not profound or anything, and I knew I didn't want that to be my last line, but it did bring something to light. I wanted to shift the focus from the subject of work to something about my heroine. So when I got home I started working. At least now I knew the direction I wanted to go.
Another thing about my heroine is you find out in the prologue that she hates being cold. In the first chapter I end a scene with the phrase---"I hated being cold." I really like the line where it is, and thought about using it again as some sort of reptitious line I could use throughout the book, but I knew I was being lazy. I knew if this entry did wind up in front of a editor or agent they would think I was being lazy. I knew I could come up with something different. So I kept on.

I thought at one point she needed to rub her arms. I typed and retyped...moved stuff around. Oh, and another challenge was that I basically had one line. I was at the bottom of the page. I had already gone through and tried to free up some space. So I kept working.

Finally I had it. I had something I was happy with.

Even this hot night in Georgia couldn’t stop me from shivering at those thoughts. I rubbed my arms trying to rid myself of the goose bumps. I’d thought about carrying a sweater with me. But it wouldn’t do any good.
My coldness seeps from the inside out.

Now I understand this isn't the best last line ever. I know this. But it worked for me--for what I was trying to accomplish. I wanted the judge to be left with the internal conflict of my heroine as opposed the external conflict. The work situation is important, but I want the judge to think about Anna, why she is the way she is. I want the judge to wonder if Anna ever would get back to normal. Back to her warm heart.

So I hope I did it.

What about you? Every ponder over a last line? For a contest, or a chapter end. The end of a book? We'd love to hear about it.


  1. I love your ending, Lindi! I think it accomplished all you wanted it to do. Great work!!

    Don't you just love how we can spend days on one line?! I do the same thing.


  2. I'm reminded of what James Scott Bell encourages writers to do in his book Plot and Structure. He says we need to end scenes with a "read-on prompt," an ROP that will make our readers (or judges!) want to turn the page. Just like the hook at the beginning of the scene, the ROP is equally important. Yours sounded great, Belinda!

  3. Missy, sometimes it's crazy. The writing never leaves least not for long. Our minds always seems to keep thinking about the story.

  4. Jody, I really like that book by James Scott Bell, and he has a new one out on revision that I would like to have. Thanks for stopping by the blog.

  5. First line. Last line. I labor over them and most every one in between. And when it comes to contests, you're right, Lindi, you can't just say okay, this is page such and such so I have to stop here. You want to leave the judges wanting more.

    Great line/paragraph btw :-)

  6. I'm struggling with that right now in my current chapter. I'm not sure what hook I want to end on.

  7. Mindy,
    You're right about the first line too. They are just as hard and frustrating (sometimes) to come up with.