Denouement – noun

  • The final outcome of the main dramatic complication in a literary work (Merriam-Webster)
  • The outcome of a complex sequence of events (Merriam-Webster)
  • The end of a story, in which everything is explained, or the end result of a situation (Cambridge)

“The denouement is the final outcome of the story, generally occurring after the climax of the plot. Often it’s where all the secrets (if there are any) are revealed and loose ends are tied up. For example, the denouement of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet comes just after Romeo and Juliet take their own lives. When the families find their dead bodies, Escalus explains that their deaths are a result of the family feud, leaving members of both sides to feel guilty. That is the denouement.”
– Writer’s Digest

Writing tips about denouement:

  • Endings don’t always have to be happy, but they do need to be satisfying
  • Endings are always embedded in the beginning of a story. The denouement is a final resolution of the plot. After the dramatic tension has risen to its climax, the events following the crux reveal how the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

Endings that don’t work:

  • When you don’t leave room for the reader’s imagination
  • When you overwrite the ending in purple prose
  • When you’ve abandoned a character and your reader is left wondering whatever happened to the person who disappeared from any scenes in the last third of the book
  • When you drop a major concept and the reader is thinking the concept was only a ruse and feels disappointment or cheated
  • When the implications of the setup are not fully realized
  • When story threads are left hanging loose
  • When you have promised too much or the wrong thing to the reader and don’t deliver
  • When your pacing is too fast for the ending
  • When your plot and your protagonist’s story arcs aren’t synced
  • When the stakes are much smaller than you originally advertised (mountain out of molehill)

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