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The resolution of a story is beyond just the end of the story. Readers want (need?) to know what is going to happen to your characters.
The resolution lays the foundation for the future of your characters. This doesn’t mean another book (although it can). It means enough information so your reader can imagine the characters living on.
The resolution is the final plot point, but it’s just as important as the prior ones!
Writing the Resolution
Your falling action should have wrapped up your plots. The resolution is the future. Your resolution needs to do two things.
#1 – Demonstrate the Impact
The most important thing the resolution needs to do is show the long-term impact of the story and its climax.
Great, good triumphed over evil. But now what? Does the world go back to exactly what it was before? Is there a fundamental change? The resolution will provide an answer to your reader.
#2 – Make the Reader Feel
The resolution should leave the reader feeling something. What? That’s up to you but an emotion needs to be evoked. Happiness, sadness, depression, love, hope, whatever it may be.
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All Wrapped Up or Leave Them Wondering?
You don’t have to tie everything up with a bow on it. You can leave some things for your readers to wonder about or envision themselves.
Whatever way you choose to go, make sure you’re doing it for your reader. The resolution is not about you (the author), it’s about the reader. You need to make sure you’re providing enough information to make for a satisfying resolution – no more, no less.
Resolution is one of the trickiest bits because it’s hard to know how much is just enough. As the author, you’re very invested in your characters and story. You probably know exactly what would happen next in minute detail.
Honestly, there’s no right answer here. There’s no guide to what will always work. If you’re really not certain, write two resolutions. They shouldn’t have different intentions, just more and less information. Give them both to your beta readers and listen to their feedback.
What about novels with a sequel?
If you’re planning on writing a sequel, you’ll need to lay the groundwork for that (probably in the falling action).
BUT, BUT, BUT, make sure you resolve this novel. This novel still needs to stand on its own (to a certain level) and it needs to be resolved.
Let’s use Harry Potter as an example. There are 7 novels. There’s a plot that spans the entire series (defeating Voldemort) but each novel has its own complete plot including a resolution.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (or Sorcerer’s Stone) is book one. In the resolution, we know that Voldemort is still out there somewhere (laying the groundwork for a sequel) but Harry & friends finish their school year and head home for the summer.
The resolution makes it clear there’s another book to come but it also leaves the reader with a clear idea of what the immediate future holds (a new-normal style summer).
Check out these resolution examples from bestselling and award-winning fiction.
THE WRONG SIDE OF GOODBYE
THE WRONG SIDE OF GOODBYE, published in 2016, is a mystery, thriller, & suspense novel by Michael Connelly. It’s book 19 in the Harry Bosch series.
THE WRONG SIDE OF GOODBYE spent 2 weeks at #1 on the NYT Bestseller List. Between 2009 and 2018, Michael Connelly spent a total of 12 weeks at #1 on the NYT Bestseller list.
Harry Bosch accepts a paid, full-time job at the SFPD. Vibiana gets money and uses it to improve her art community.
#1 – Impact
The impact of the climax is long-term. We see the new normal for Vibiana (she got money and it using it positively) and we’re told about the new normal for Harry (he’ll be a paid cop again).
#2 – Feelings
Readers should be left feeling happy. Everything was resolved and lives were (and will continue to be) improved. Also, future Harry Bosch novels can be expected.
Wrapped Up or Wondering?
THE WRONG SIDE OF GOODBYE wraps up the story. There’s nothing left to wonder about.
ANCILLARY JUSTICE, published in 2013, is a Science Fiction novel by Ann Leckie. It’s book 1 in the Ancillary World trilogy.
ANCILLARY JUSTICE won the 2014 Hugo Award. Fox Television Studies has purchased the option to create a TV series.
Anaander Mianaai (presumably the good one) makes Breq a citizen. She ‘requests’ that Breq become Captain of Mercy of Kalr. Breq resists but ends up on the ship.
#1 – Impact
The resolution leaves a soft impact. Breq & crew won this fight but there’s more to come. Good Anaander is setting up for the long fight and wants Breq to play a role.
#2 – Feelings
The feelings brought about by the resolution revolve around Breq. There’s relief that she’s okay, intermingled with some pity. She didn’t sign up for this, and yet. There’s also some happiness – she’s a citizen, she gets a ship. And of course, there’s worry about what’s to come for her.
Wrapped Up or Wondering?
ANCILLARY JUSTICE is book one of a trilogy, therefore, the resolution will leave us wondering. Buy book two to find out what happens next!
It’s time to practice with these exercises & prompts for mastering the resolution.
Exercise: Analyze More Novels
Every genre will be a little different. Choose some of your favorite novels and some novels in the genre you want to write in (if they’re different). Analyze the resolution of each novel.
- Briefly describe what happens.
- What is the impact?
- What feelings does this leave the reader?
- Is it all wrapped up or does it leave you wondering?
Exercise: Analyze LITTLE RED
Answer the questions from exercise 1 for the resolution of LITTLE RED-CAP.
Exercise: Adapt LITTLE RED
Now that you understand the resolution, it’s time to rewrite it. What if something else had happened?
Your task: Write a new resolution of at least 400 words.
The first presidential election where an AI candidate is running.
Your task: Write a resolution of at least 400 words.
Goodbye (for now)
Writing a satisfying resolution is important. Don’t leave your readers disappointed – make sure to include an impact and to evoke feelings.
You’ve conquered plot structure, what next? Check out the Guide to Subplots!
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