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.

  1. 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…”
    Ellie: “Why?”
    Dormer: “Don’t lose your way.”
  2. The HelpHilly, 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.
  3. 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?”
These are just a few examples of how the closing sentence of a book, movie, play or speech are responsible for delivering the piece’s final message. People often forget the middle of a book or movie, but they’ll remember the ending. Because of this, the final chapter of my book was the most difficult portion to write. But there will be no spoilers about that today. Instead, I’ll invite you to read it for yourself when it comes out next month and let me know whether or not I ended it well. 🙂 *shameless self-promotion*

What is one of the most memorable final lines you’ve heard or read? Leave a comment below!