There are few crimes more reprehensible than droning on for ten pages for a concept that could be expressed in ten sentences. I touched upon this a couple weeks ago. Oh yes, boys and girls and smizmars, let’s tie this fucker off right!
There are a few ways you can bring a piece to a close, and it’s up to your better judgement (ha ha) to decide which method is most useful. Making a grandiose oversimplification, as I’m wont to do, “closings” can be grouped into three categories so loose, yo’ momma’ll seem tight.
- The Cliffhanger
- The Summary
- The Fuck You
“The Cliffhanger” tends to be better used in works of fiction. For example, let’s say I stuck my assjack protagonist in the clutches of his former-and-probably-future lover, and he happens to be handcuffed to a chair in the non-giggity sort of way. I know I could carry on for another dozen pages juggling witty repartee and bitchslaps to his booze-guzzler. That said, what would these slapstick pages add to my story? Absolutely fucking nothing. The object of a cliffhanger is to cement an ending with a single blow like a shovel to the forehead.
Using a such a wrap-up forces you to think about what you have written as a complete work. If you’ve already accomplished what you’ve set out to do, as I did with Maxie, sometimes it’s as simple as a slammed door on a solitary prisoner. Abrupt endings are meant to be jarring, and even though they should leave some questions unanswered– make sure it doesn’t leave too many things in the air. Drop a cliffhanger before it’s properly set up, and you’ll come off like a kid who tried to bang out an entire research paper before breakfast.
Speaking of papers, that brings me to the next big-ass category. Summaries are best used for non-fiction work. Now don’t get fucking picky with me, because this covers everything from emails to academic papers. Touch on your key points, but don’t waste keystrokes rehashing them. The point is to wrap everything up like a present, right down to the tidy little bow. The point of The Summary is to have a nice feeling of completion once you’re done with the last sentence. If you discover another way of presenting the topic– that shit belongs in the body of your work, so get to rewriting. Unless you’re planning to drop a bombshell (thereby combining The Cliffhanger with The Summary), tie it together and be done with it. If it takes more than a paragraph to wrap up, you’re doing it wrong.
The one everyone’s been waiting for is lucky number three: the Fuck You. This is a thing of beauty, because this method is not just meant to wrap up what you’ve written– it’s wrapping everything up. It’s the last word– and it absolutely cannot work unless you have covered every last angle with OCD-esque attention to detail. The French call it a coup de grâce, and the more popular term these days is the “mic drop.”
This doesn’t have to be nasty, some of the very best sign-offs of this category take lofty roads. This ending is abrupt, much like a Cliffhanger– except all want for further discourse is dead like political integrity.