SCENE 23: Final Scenes

How to End a Story Well

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There’s a last special scene to consider and that’s the last scene in your book. This may or may not coincide with the climax of the story; traditionally there’s a denouement, a French word that originally meant an untying or to unite. It’s the place where all the plot threads are brought together for a last time.

Subplots and Denouement

Romance Subplot. In terms of plots and subplots, traditionally all subplots are resolved before or during the climax scene except the love subplot. The love story is often reserved for a tender moment at the end of the story. In the movie, The Princess Bride, it’s the five perfect kisses in the history of the world moment and this is one of them. And the kid who has listened to the whole story. doesn’t even mind this emotion because of all the action/adventure he’s endured.

More about denouements

  • Short. The denouement is usually short, with just a couple pages, or perhaps a short chapter after the climax. I often see pages and pages after the climax scene and usually advise that these be cut or placed earlier. Please, solve all subplots before the climax, except the romance.

    Yes, in detective stories, there’s often the long explanation, a la Hercules Poirot from Agatha Christie’s books. But these type scenes don’t play well for today’s fast-paced audience. Wrap it up fast.

  • Mirrors the Opening. One option is to mirror the opening scene. For example, in Dicken’s The Christmas Carol, Scrooge is challenged in the beginning with how he treats the poor, his employee and his nephew. The ending mirrors these three challenges as he gives to the poor, takes care of Tiny Tim and his family and visits his nephew’s Christmas party.

    Mirror openings are a way to demonstrate the character change in concrete ways and is often part of a good quest story. But even here, be careful and don’t drag it out.

  • A Year Later. Another option of the denouement is to take us a year ahead (or whatever time period is logical) to see the results of the story. It’s a great option for some stories, just keep it short.
  • Hint at Sequel. Of course, you want to hint at a sequel. You want a series and sales! But do it here with a light touch, a bit of mystery, not leaving the reader totally hanging. UNLESS–you know up front that this is a series/trilogy/multi-part story. Then, try to wrap up something and just hint at what comes next. And do it quickly.
  • Short. Did I say keep it short? Well, keep it short. Really. Cover loose ends, but make it snappy.
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