"And they all lived happily ever after." What a crock! This cliche conclusion fails in every time. Events rarely end happy in real life. Nobody is happy forever, and real life stories often end horrifically. The statement means nothing to us now.
Still, because the stories are for children, the ending works. Kids enjoy repetition, and they need to believe that life is going to work out just fine.
So, the woodsman cuts granny and LRRH out of the wolf's belly, and everything is fine? Does the wolf have only gums and swallowed them whole? In real life granny and Hood are ground beef.
Something in the human mind craves a happy ending, and you only need look at Hollywood movies to see it. As writers, however, we don't always have to end on this happy note. One positive aspect of "happily ever after" is that it points toward the future. It anticipates what is to come.
This is the most effective way to end a story because it leaves the reader thinking after the book is back on the shelf (but avoid "happily..." at all costs. Nothing is more boring than a conclusion that simply restates the story or message. Check this out as a conclusion:
In conclusion, LRRH did well in obeying her mother by taking the food to granny, but she erred when she disobeyed and spoke to the stranger. The result was that both granny and LRRH were gobbled up by the evil wolf. If it were not for the man who came to their rescue, they would have been digested.
This is a wretched, summary conclusion. If we are reading a short work like a fairy tale, we remember events well enough without rehashing them in the conclusion. The story spirals down with a thud because, as readers, we receive regurgitated bits or cliches about what we have just read.
In articles, essays, and blog posts the same thing happens. How many times have you read a formal essay that restates the thesis statement in the end? Seriously, we are not stupid readers, and we remember the story, beginning to end.
While LRRH does well in looking to the future, it fails in provoking thought at the end of the story. Provoking thought is far more complicated than simply summarizing
Folk stories and fairy tales often end like this because they were originally retold in oral form. In oration, it's desirable to restate the conclusion because we remember less efficiently, and we don't have the pages in front of us. It also makes the moral clear and memorable - a lasting lesson for young people."If you are obedient, you will be happy and wolf-free."
In blog writing, readers remember, so don't repeat. The question is what to do in the conclusion, and I'll share some effective ideas with you below.
Strong conclusions should be forward, rather than backward thinking, so you ask yourself: What do I want my readers to do now? What action should they take? How should this alter their perspective or view point? These questions will push you to think about what comes next, what is going to help your reader the most.
Powerful endings are especially important in blog posts where readers are usually looking for information to act upon: make decisions, learn how to do something, solve problems, change ways of thinking, and improve their lives. So, end with engaging forward thinking, prodding readers to take action. A blog post that fails to hint at action will usually do poorly.
Some ideas to come up with forward thinking conclusions:
Conclusions can be powerful. I could have simply ended with the list. Or, I could have summarized and restated my thesis. However, you deserve more.
Maya Lin adds an important element to conclusions, saying "You have to let the viewers come away with their own conclusions. If you dictate what they should think, you've lost it." Forward thinking allows for independent choice and conclusions.
Last thought, never use phrases like: "in conclusion," "lastly," "finally," "in summation," or "in the end." Cliche endings suck as much as "happily ever after." If it's the last paragraph in the essay, we assume you are concluding.
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What strategies do you use in conclusions?
By Darin L. Hammond
Writer for ZipMinis and owns ZipMinis Freelance Writing.
Darin Publishes across the web on sites like Technorati
BC Blog, Blog Critics, Broowaha, and Social Media Today.