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‘Don’t forget that the last sentence in your essay is the one that the examiner reads before he awards you a mark!’ – the warning once given by a canny English teacher.

An earlier ninevoices post commented on the advice given to writers about how first lines need to grab a reader’s attention. In short stories the last line is probably equally important – and difficult to write. There is no time for a gradual wind up of the story, the ending must come suddenly, like a ruthless slice of the knife. Ideas for openings and closings with their essential element of shock, surprise and fulfilment – these are often the initial inspiration for an imagined short story. But it’s interesting that some writers say they delete sentences from their original beginnings and endings to achieve a slicing effect which resonates and haunts the reader’s mind.

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