32. The Haunting
Endings are hard.
When in doubt about how to conclude a piece of journalism such as a profile, a quote is often a surefire way to wrap things up. Not that it’s *always* the best, but it’s a handy device and usually does the job. (Again: when in doubt or when all else fails.)
With an essay, it’s not so simple.
You don’t want to repeat or summarize what you’ve already said. You don’t want to preach or get “lessony.” Most important, you don’t want to spell everything out.
I tell my students that you want an ending that will “haunt” your readers. Not literally spook them—though, hey, maybe sometimes!—but rather leave them with something to figure out, something that will linger.
It can be helpful to consider ending on either an image or an action. An image can be something you saw—a scene out the window, say, or an object on the table that suddenly looked different than it did before. An action can be the first thing you did when your antagonist shut the door: Did you pick something up, wash the dishes, make a phone call, start dancing by yourself? If so, how exactly?
Let those carefully observed details do the last bit of work for you.
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