Writing the Denouement

The first few novellas I attempted to write had abrupt endings. Apparently I thought that a reader who was left with a moment of high drama or a new concept to chew on would close my book (or turn off their Kindle) and spend the next 24 hours mulling over the new and amazing ideas I’d sparked with my magnificent story.

Then I realized one of the reasons for the denouement. For the purposes of this blog, we’ll define denouement as everything that happens after the climax. At least for modern readers, life moves too fast for them to close a book, close their eyes, and let their thoughts roam. They are called to their text messages or chauffeuring their kid to karate class. After a reader finds out what happened, and the story is all wrapped up, they need time to digest the story. And they will take the time if there are more words for them to look at.

My thought, and this may change with more experience of course, is that it hardly matters what happens during the denouement. In fact, I think as little as possible should be introduced to the reader at this time. Vocabulary should be chosen purposefully to foster a general feeling, but mostly you are providing time for your readers to have their own thoughts about your characters, and indeed, their own lives.

I’m trying to teach myself, here. Everything I write is too short. So let’s do an assignment together. Find three of your favorite novels. Find the moment when the climactic action is over, and count how many pages are left. How does this number compare to the total page count of the book? What does the author say during the denouement? Tell me your findings in the comments.

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One thought on “Writing the Denouement

  1. I think the denouement should wrap up loose ends. I am not motivated enough to find three novels and figure out where the climax is, etc., but I do remember that the last Harry Potter book took FOREVER to end because Rowling had to wrap up zillions of things. For me, that was a bit tedious because I had forgotten many of the details by that point, but other kinds of readers remember a lot, and would have been disappointed if they had been left hanging, wondering about miscellaneous plot threads.

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