Just as I worry about the opening lines of any writing project, I also worry about the closing lines.
The aim of your first line is to grab the reader’s attention, but the final sentiment often stays with them long after they've come to the last page. Even if it’s not something they memorize word for word, the emotions, questions, and answers they are left with carry significant weight and can even affect their overall opinion of the piece.
Last impressions are equally important as first impressions.
Endings have always challenged me because of how difficult they can be to perfect. It’s a balancing act. You want to entice readers with the proverbial breadcrumb or carrot dangling from a stick that keeps them coming back in order to satisfy their curiosity, but you also want to tie up loose ends so there aren’t too many unanswered questions to the point their number becomes overwhelming or frustrating, and the need varies from one chapter to the next.
A few years ago, I was introduced to the Mic Drop Theory. Although this was in the context of academic essays, it’s something I have found helpful in fiction.
The Mic Drop Theory is a visual exercise. The idea is to imagine yourself standing in front of an audience, like the way you would have performed in front of stuffed animals as a child. The typical scenario is an auditorium or theatre, in which you stand on stage at a lectern.
For storytelling purposes, I prefer to envision a more intimate setting, like gathering around a campfire or, for my historical works, a Regency Era sitting room or parlor.
No matter your setting, your audience could be friends and family, strangers, or even your ideal reader.
Now, picture yourself speaking to them. You’ve succeeded in captivating them thus far, and you’re closing in on the closing line. You want to hold them until the very last second, leaving a fraction of intrigue to linger, giving way to a sense of finality. A remark that maintains its hold on those who hear it, leaving them with something to think about, whether that means ruminating on the deeper meaning woven throughout, reflections on how they mirror the sentiment (or how it contrasts), or maybe a warm and fuzzy feeling.
Then, you drop the microphone and simply walk away, leaving your audience alone with their thoughts.
The final impact of your writing is especially important to consider for the last few paragraphs of the whole piece, but the Mic Drop Theory can also be applied to other key points throughout.
With the first chapter, you want to instill curiosity and invite readers in, making them wonder who this protagonist they’ve just been introduced to is or what is going on in their world. After a major reveals or plot twists, you want to create an insatiable hunger for answers and a demand to see the fallout.
Dropping the mic gives you this power, and wielding it well improves your chance of making that significant moment that readers can’t shake.