Writing a Great Last Line

The end text on typewriterThe last lines of your family history are significant, second only to the most important lines in your story; the opening.  We’ve reviewed how important those first lines are in engaging your reader.  We’ve discussed the weight of your ending and what it must convey in those last few chapters. However, those last few sentences will resonate with your reader long after they turn the last page; at least you hope they will. Therefore it is crucial to take some time to choose those final few sentences wisely. Those last lines will determine whether your reader walks away satisfied with your story or are left feeling flat and empty. Craft them carefully and give your reader something to hold on to long after the story has ended.

Let’s look at some famous last lines.

 Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.

                                                                        – Margaret Mitchell, Gone With The Wind (1936)


 It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)


 So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

                                                                     – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925)


And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!

                                                                    –Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843)


Finding The Story 3 UPDATE

Of course, your last lines do not need to be as memorable or even as quote worthy as the ones above.  We are not likely going  to top Charles Dickens or F. Scott Fitzgerald. However, your final words above anything else, do need to leave your reader with a memorable feeling long after they turned the last page.

Think long and hard about what message you wish to convey to your reader in those last few precious words.  Here are a few ideas to consider.

  • Your last lines certainly need to bring a sense of finality to your story.
  • Your last line should resonate with your theme.
  • Your last line should be about your main ancestor and his final thoughts.  If you’re writing a memoir, then your final thoughts should be expressed in those last sentences.
  • Your last lines should demonstrate your ancestor’s growth or your growth through your family history journey.
  • Your last lines should slow the pace of your story down and ease the reader to the end.
  • Your last lines can teach a lesson or moral (of course without being preachy).
  • Your last lines should leave your reader with an understanding of how your ancestor’s life proceeded after the story is over.
  • Your last lines should be uplifting and hopeful.

Rework your last lines until they are just right. You’ve worked hard to write a family history that has engaged your reader and brought them along on this journey. Don’t rush these final words; leave your reader with a feeling, an emotion about their family history that will resonate with them forever.