Resonate -- produce or be filled with deep, full, reverberating sound. (figurative -- evoke or suggest images, memories, and emotions)
We've all read them--stories that resonate with us long after we've closed the book. The main character lingers in our mind, and once we finish the book, we feel like we've lost a friend. Oh, how I wish I could write a book like that.
How do we create memorable stories that linger in the reader's mind? Not only in the middle, during twists and turns and emotional turmoil, but in the end, through those final pages that seal the deal. As usual, I turned to James Scott Bell's PLOT & STRUCTURE for answers. He suggests we consider the following:
Each word is crucial in our ending, and we should choose them carefully. We must determine the mood we're aiming for. Is it clipped and hurried? Slow and sensual? Unresolved and frustrating? Hopeful and poetic? Or happy and satisfied? Word choice is important throughout our books, but the words we choose in the ending determines how the readers feel once they've finished the final chapter.
Is there a unique piece of dialogue between two of your main characters? If they've survived the story, consider using these distinctive words again in the end. Or dialogue could set up what's to come once the players are off the page, or even the screen, such as these famous movie lines: "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship," from Casablanca, or from Gone with the Wind, "...Tara! Home. I'll go home, and I'll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day."
Bell suggests, "If there is a particular description of setting or character that is just right, this can make for a perfect ending." An important setting that has gone through its own character arc could work, such as a barren field sprouting fresh greenery, or cloudy skies clearing as a sign of hope. Perhaps an embattled hero finds his way home, or the next generation picks up where the previous victors left off.
A Summing Up
"There is a way to sum up the feelings of a character without making it seem like author intrusion," Bells says. A simple paragraph could work, such as this given example from Dean Koontz's MIDNIGHT:
Looking over Scott's shoulder, he saw that Tessa and Chrissie had stepped into the room. They were crying too. In their eyes he saw an awareness that matched his, a recognition that the battle for Scott had only begun. But it had begun. That was the wonderful thing. It had begun.
Do you strive for resonance in your final pages? And what book lingered with you long after you'd read The End, and why?