Daily Writing Tip 27 of 100, The Very Very End: The Last Paragraph

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – The Very Very End: The Last Paragraph

Source – Beginnings, Middles & Ends, by Nancy Kress

Because the last paragraph of a short story is the power position – and within that position, the last sentence is the most powerful of all. Often – not infallibly, but often – the last sentence or paragraph evokes the theme of the entire story.

My favorite example of the power of the final paragraph and final sentence in a short story is in one of my favorites – Life After High School, by Joyce Carol Oates.

I wrote a blog entry about it years ago – you can read that here. You can read a PDF of the story here.

It is an example of a fantastically well-written work that manipulates the reader into thinking it’s one type of story – then turns you into thinking it’s another. And then the final sentence – and you realize (if you are reading carefully to the end) that it’s something completely different again – full of unexpected horror and meaning.

Read it. All the way through. I dare you.

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