Everything comes to an end sooner or later. And in fiction, how you end a story is as important as how you began it. If your thriller roars out of the starting gate with a tremendous opening and a riveting plot, but concludes with a dissatisfying ending, your readers are going to be disappointed. So let’s take a closer at story resolution, and ensure you thriller ends on a high note.
Story Resolution – a Definition
Story resolution can best be defined as “the entire ending of the story that gives the reader a sense of calm and finality following the action and excitement of the climax.” The story’s resolution normally ties up any outstanding loose ends for the primary characters. A good resolution will help readers imagine the trajectory of the main character’s lives as a result of the main conflict in the book; readers will try to envision what characters are doing after the last page in a thriller with an effective resolution.
The story resolution is sometimes confused with the story’s climax. However, the climax is the highest point of tension in a novel, usually where the protagonist decisively confronts the antagonistic force arrayed against her or him. The resolution occurs after the climax, and depicts the changes that have occurred to the primary characters as a result of the conflicts outcome. The resolution, obviously comes at the end of a novel, and normally comprises about five to ten percent of the entire story.
Resolution Examples in Popular Fiction
Every story has a resolution of some sorts. Some are better than others. Let’s see what we can learn from a few well-known examples.
The Lord of the Rings
In the resolution of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic trilogy, we saw a truly bittersweet aftermath of the War of the Ring. After the ring’s destruction, the surviving members of The Fellowship go their separate ways. Aragorn assumes the throne of Gondor, and the Hobbits return to life in the Shire (after a brief interlude where they toss Saruman, Wormtongue, and some of their cronies out). Frodo, Gandalf, and several others, on the other hand, depart Middle Earth forever on a ship bound for the undying lands.
The acclaimed television series The Sopranos ended on a controversial and, to many fans of the show, dissatisfying note. The Soprano family is meeting for dinner in a busy diner. As the actions of the Soprano family and other diner patrons heighten the tension, the screen simply cuts to black, and the series ends. In the series’ resolution, the audience never finds out what happened to the main characters on a show they’ve watched religiously for six seasons!
Gillian Flynn’s riveting thriller Gone Girl had a resolution befitting a plot centered around a dysfunctional and destructive marriage. Antagonist Amy Dunne, who has framed Nick for her disappearance and presumed murder, returns to her husband after her plan goes awry. Amy informs Nick that she’s pregnant, and that he’ll never see the baby if he reveals what she has done. The pair end up in the same place the story began: together and unhappy.
Elements of an Effective Resolution
We’ve examined a few resolutions here, good, bad, and ho hum. So just what does a story’s resolution have to do in order to satisfy readers? Here are some things to consider.
No New Info
It is a bad idea to introduce some new information, idea, or plot element during the resolution. Doing so can distract or confuse readers, and detract from the way your thriller’s plot unfolded up through the climax. Any ideas, characters, or plot elements that play a role in your resolution should already have been noted during previous parts of your story.
No Major Loose Ends
A good resolution should address the major issues characters faced during the story. The primary conflict should be resolved, of course. Any personal shortfalls the protagonist faced during the thriller should also be resolved. It is acceptable to leave some stones unturned, however; this can help pique readers’ imaginations, and also help you set up a potential sequel to your thriller as well.
The Protagonist Should Have Brought the Resolution About
When you are ready to write your thriller’s resolution, you should ask yourself: are we here because of the protagonist’s actions? If so, you are on the right track. The protagonist’s actions should resolve the main conflict in your story. If the answer is no, you should consider revising your draft a bit; a thriller where the conflict is resolved by someone or something other than the protagonist is probably not very riveting.
Ending a story well can make the difference between a great thriller and a forgettable one. An effective resolution addresses a story’s major loose ends, illustrates how the conflict has changed the main characters, and refrains from the disruptive introduction of new expository information and plot elements. Does your thriller’s resolution pass muster? If not, consider revising it today, and end it well.