Ending a novel, if you’ve managed to be with the characters and their situation, is not something that is too conscious, and if you trust the characters, they’ll do it for you.
If not, go back and work on everything else, and also put away every electronic device—the i-phone is the enemy of writing a novel, and if I had an i-phone I would never focus enough to write another novel. I have a flip phone, from 1994.
What are the last lines of favorites I’ve mentioned before?
1.“The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed somber under an overcast sky—seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.” Heart of Darkness
2.“The warder who came in to prepare her for the sixth session of exorcism found her dead of love in her bed, her eyes radiant and her skin like that of a new=born baby; strands of hair gushed like bubbles as they grew back on her shaved head.” Of Love and Other Demons
What are the last lines of a few of my novels?
1.“The three women and the man ride along together seeking a girl named Xia, whose name means ‘Summer.’ And if you could ask each of them what they are feeling at just that moment, each might say in their own way that they are feeling part of something else, part of something at the heart of the universe, a universal law of love.” At the Heart of the Universe
2.“Humbly, I ask her to marry me.” The House of God
3.“(one long sentence, of 240 words, ending with…and in no time they were close enough so that their cries to each other to the new in each other could be clearly heard, as if all those present are coming back from the dead.” The Spirit of the Place
4.In The Buddha’s Wife: The Path of Awakening Together, Janet Surrey and I quote the Buddha’s last words: “Be a light unto yourself; seek your own salvation with diligence.”
And we imagine Yasodhara, his abandoned wife, might have had as her last words:
“Sometimes you need the light of others to see the way. Sometimes you need to be a light for others. And always, the light will shine more brightly when two or more are gathered in spirit. ‘
She also says to the Buddha, when they meet again only once:
What might be of benefit, what teaching and practices offered, had two—or more—sat together under the Bodhi Tree?”
5. And our play Bill W. and Dr.Bob ends with Bill addressing the audience: “Like to close our meetin’ with a moment of silence.”
6. And as Malik, a thin man who is a wise psychiatrist in Mount Misery, says: “None of us are here for long.”
And remember, you have to earn the ending, or else its melodrama. End right.
And please join us @ the book launch for At the Heart of the Universe:
Samuel Shem in conversation with Adam Pertman, Adoption Nation, and with Katie Surrey-Bergman and Janet Surrey. At Soho Playhouse, 14 Vandam Street, NYC. November 14, Monday at from 7 to 8:45. Free