If the job of the first sentence is to convince someone to read more, then the job of the last one is to seal the deal. If the writing has been strong throughout and the story sound, then the job of the final sentence is not to squander the good feeling the reader has about the book so far. Ideally, the last sentence lives in the memory and persuades the reader to seek out more of the writer’s work.
A strong last sentence:
- Provides a sense of resolution or closure
- Reflects the theme of the story
- May mirror the beginning of the story
- May look ahead to the future (particularly if the book is part of a series)
Here are some examples of famous last sentences:
“The growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.” –George Eliot, Middlemarch
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” –F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
"Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” –Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
“But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.” –A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
“He loved Big Brother.” –George Orwell, 1984
Do you have a favorite last line? Share your suggestions in the comments; I'd love to hear from you.