Friday, April 13, 2012
Writing: The Denouement
The word denouement (pronounced day-new-mah, sort of) comes from a French word that means a knot. And that's exactly what it does--it ties things up at the end. The conclusion of the story answers questions and brings the story to its logical (or illogical) finish.
But does the denouement really answer all the reader's questions? In some instances, no--there may be some things left to the reader's imagination. In my own writing, I try to end things as neatly as possible, but not too neatly. For instance, in my last book, Lethal Remedy, the first draft had one of the characters dying of a malignancy, a sort of divine retribution. However, I decided not to make the ending so smooth, with everything coming out all right, so I rewrote the ending to leave that question up in the air. (Sorry, you'll have to read the book to see what I did.)
One thing writers are warned to avoid is the mechanism of Deus ex machina. This means "God out of the machine," and was a device used in classic Greek theater, when a crane lowered actors playing gods onto the scene to bring order out of chaos and give a happy ending. And here's another thing to consider. In my first mentoring class on writing, I was told by an excellent writer of Christian fiction that the hero or heroine had to be the agent of his/her own deliverance. No cavalry riding to the rescue, no external intervention, they had to do it themselves. I'm not sure that's a hard and fast rule, but I've tried to adhere to it, and I think it adds to the tension as a book comes to a close.
For more about the denouement, you can check out this Writer's Digest post.
Have you read a book, seen a play or movie, even watched a TV program where the denouement was both unexpected and satisfying? Care to share? Hope you will.