The final word[s].
by Todd Foley
Just a warning: This blog may contain some spoilers. And I’m okay with that. 🙂
Today marked a slightly significant milestone in my book process as I finally transfered all of the content into the formatted document – clocking in at 207 pages! The next step will be uploading the document to CreateSpace along with the cover, ordering a proof and doing a final uber-intense copy edit. #boom.
However, I’m not here to talk about my book. Instead, I wanted to explore the incredible power held in the final words of a book or a film. This topic was inspired today as I was finally able to look at my project as a whole and that I was satisfied with how the story ended – especially the last few lines.
I had this horrible habit of reading the last sentence of a book before starting it. There was no context with which to understand these words but it gave the book an added element of mystery.
I finally stopped this habit after reading the last line of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The book hit stores while I was spending the summer in India, so I bought a pirated copy; I couldn’t wait until I returned home to find out if Harry lived or died. So I read the final line: “The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well.” Needless to say, the surprise was ruined before I even started, and I finally realized how stupid that habit was. If you haven’t read the books, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you. Plus…well, shame on you for not reading those books!
But in all seriousness, final words are the best part of any creative medium. It’s the author’s last chance to leave a lasting impression on the audience.
I watched a few films recently with powerful final lines that pose significant moral questions.
- Insomnia. At the end of the movie, a young police officer named Ellie has the chance to bury incriminating evidence so as to protect the reputation of Agent Dormer, a highly decorated cop. Their exchange is an emotive lesson of how one small action can sacrifice one’s integrity.
Ellie: “Nobody needs to know. You didn’t mean to do it, and I know that, even if you don’t.” [She tries to throw the shell casing into the water, but he stops her]
Dormer: “No, don’t…”
Dormer: “Don’t lose your way.”
- The Help. Hilly, the so-easy-to-hate antagonist, spends the length of this film abusing her power to secure her superior social standing above the African-American maids. Aibileen, the movie’s key protagonist, finally calls Hilly on her sins at the final scene, where she delivers this cutting line: “All you do is scare and lie to try and get what you want. Aren’t you tired?” Aibileen then makes her exit as Hilly fights back tears of piercing conviction.
- Shutter Island. This film is hands-down phenomenal, in my opinion. I love stories where you can’t decipher reality from fantasy, and this one certainly delivers. The most poignant moment of the movie, though, leaves viewers with a decision regarding living aware of one’s own depravity or facing death with nobility. Teddy Daniels poses the final question: “Which would be worse – to live as a monster? Or to die as a good man?”
What is one of the most memorable final lines you’ve heard or read? Leave a comment below!
“He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight.” (From The Dark Knight)
BOOM, movie ends and I utter out loud (in the movie theater) “F**K YES!!!” Not my proudest moment, but the emotion of the ending of the movie got me!
I totally agree with you Todd on the power of the last lines of a book and/or movie cause they really do leave you with an impression. I read a book recently that ended with a completely corny line and it totally ruined the book for me. I wasn’t thrilled with the book up until that point, but the final line sealed the deal for me.
The last words are the “kiss goodnight”, so you better make sure it’s a good one!
BTW, so exciting for you to finish!!!!
Ha, I love it! Both the closing line and your response. 🙂 I agree, that was a powerful ending to a powerful film. Can hardly wait for the next one to come out this summer. Thanks for the encouragement! Side note: I may steal that sentence and post it on my desk: “The last words are the ‘kiss goodnight,’ so you better make sure it’s a good one!”
I freaking LOVE that movie, it’s my favorite film. I’m such a HUGE Batman nerd. I’m also eagerly anticipating the new movie this summer.
Feel free to use my sentence on your desk. I’m honored to inspire you and flattered that I’ll be on such a sacred creative space as your desk! Humbled!
I think the other final line I should have included was from “Black Swan.” Nina’s final words are: “It was perfect.” One of the most brutally powerful films I have seen in years.
And yes – it is now on my desk!
Yeah Black Swan is a good one too.
Flattered and humbled that it’s on your desk!
Not words, but the final scene from the Godfather REALLY sticks out to me as one of the best endings ever. The door shutting. The look on Kaye’s face. PRICELESS. That movie seriously is my all time favorite, (if you speed it up a little in a couple parts specifically in Italy.)
I feel so uncultured in saying this, but I have yet to see the Godfather. My wife and I are catching up on classics by hosting movie parties once a month, so we’ll definitely add that one – thanks for the recommendation!
I was the same way for YEARS, so I can relate. This movie has so many amazing parts to it. You can watch it over and over, and still pick up new parts from it. The 2nd is really good too, but he 1st is just amazing.
These are some of my favorite movies too. Todd, definitely check out the first Godfather. Jim that is a great scene and the best part is that it’s all done without any words!
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