I've been thinking about endings lately. My middle grade novel RUN!!! will have a surprise at its close. The surprise has to be believable and right in the guts of it--the guts being the story.
A good ending has to pull together all the elements in the story in a satisfying way and end it, if not with a twist, with a punch. It has to be believable. It has to be told in the tone of the story and it has to extend the reader beyond the story--into the future.
Here are a couple of endings which fit those criteria. "The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd about a teenage girl from the south fleeing the abusive T. Ray, looking for a mother in the desperate days just before blacks were given the vote.
"This is the autumn of wonders, yet every day, every single day, I go back to that burned afternoon in August when T. Ray left. I go back to that one moment when I stood in the driveway with small rocks and clumps of dirt around my feet and looked back at the porch. And there they were. All these mothers. I have more mothers than any girl off the street. They are the moons shining over me."
"The Remains of the Day" by Kazuo Ishiguro about a butler in a proper English household trying to shed a lifetime of rigidity which has denied him happiness. One of the symbols of this rigidity is his inability to "banter."
"It occurs to me, furthermore, that bantering is hardly an unreasonable duty for an employer to expect a professional to perform. I have of course already devoted much time to developing my bantering skills, but it is possible I have never previously approached the task with quite the commitment I might have done. Perhaps, then, when I return to Darlington Hall tomorrow--Mr. Farraday himself will not be back for a further week--I will begin practicing with renewed effort. I should hope, then, by the time of my employer's return, I shall be in a position to pleasantly surprise him."
Finally, "Wuthering Heights" by Emily Bronte about the doomed love affair between Heathcliff and his beloved Cathy narrated by Heathcliff's tenant, Lockwood.
"My walk home was lengthened by a diversion in the direction of the kirk. When beneath its walls, I perceived decay had made progress, even in seven months--many a windows showed black gaps deprived of glass; and slates jutted off, here and there, beyond the right line of the roof, to be gradually worked off in coming autumn storms.
"I sought, and soon discovered, the three head-stones on the slope next the moor --the middle on grey, and half buried in the heath--Edgar Linton's only harmonized by the turf and moss, creeping up its foot--Heathliff's still bare.
"I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers, for the sleepers in that quiet earth."
What are your favorite endings and what makes them good and right?
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