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    « Does Truth Always Hurt in Memoir & Family History? | Main | Recalling Details in Autobiography and Memoir »

    Concluding a Memoir or Family History

    I read a blog post where a college student assigned to write a memoir told classmates, “ I am still having trouble with my ending…Everything I come up with sounds either cliché or sentimental.”

    Here are some ideas to consider if you’re facing a similar problem. First, don’t try to be too brilliant.  You don’t have to discover and reveal the meaning of life. You just need to conclude the story you are telling. If it is your own memoir, the story is not over you have just decided to stop at a certain arbitrary point. One way to create a strong ending is to end on a dramatic event. For example the beginning or end of a relationship offers a possibility for drama. It might be as simple as the realization that, “After I met Dave, I knew that everything would be different.” Or it could be as explosive as Rhett Butler telling Scarlett O’Hara, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” as he walks away from her at the end of Gone With the Wind.

    Has there been a theme running through your story? If so, stating it clearly and placing it in a context to show its importance can make for a good conclusion. If you aren’t sure about your theme, try a simple exercise. State your story’s meaning in a single sentence.

    • Love is what matters most.

    • Self-reliance is the key to a happy life.

    • Learning will allow a person to solve any problem.

    • Faith is the key to overcoming adversity.

    Another way to conclude is to put the events of your memoir into a context so that the reader can understand their significance. What are the lessons, wisdom or values shaped by your experience? Particularly when you are writing for future generations of your family concluding with ideas your readers can carry on into the future is very effective.

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