A truly memorable final image or moment is the crowning achievement of your story.
It acts like a handle with which to pick up the entire tale.
It helps the reader or audience recall the story through the precision of its visual or descriptive composition.
The Final Image
What makes for a great final image? One that captures what your story is really about. It is the exclamation mark that occurs at the end of all great narratives.
In constructing this last image ask yourself the following questions:
1. Does it solve or support the previous unpacking of the story puzzle?
In my most recent novella, Before the Light, the last image encapsulates the entire story. It is of the protagonist, Sam Yeager, holding a small figurine of Icarus against the disc of the sun. Here, Icarus is both the youth in Greek mythology who sought to soar above everyone else and ended up drowning by falling into the sea, as well as the quantum computer which has solved the secret of creation but can never share it with his creators for fear of destroying them.
In The Planet of the Apes, the chief story puzzle is to find out which planet astronaut Leo Davidson’ space capsule has landed on if he is ever to try and return home. The last image of the sunken Statue of Liberty, however, strikingly reveals that he’s been on earth all along.
2. Does it answer, or support a previous answer to the central dramatic question of the story?
In the same movie, this image also answers the chief dramatic question:
What allowed apes to gain evolutionary ascendency over man?
3. Does it reveal the protagonist’s hidden hope, ambition, or fear?
Davidson’s hopes of ever returning home come to naught. He is already home—in earth’s bleak future.
The power of a truly memorable final image lies in creating a snapshot of the entire story in the minds of those who encounter it.
The final image, line, or moment of your story ought to act as the exclamation point of your tale, revealing the essence of your story.