Plot Resolution: Bringing Your Plot to a Good Resolution
Tips to ensure that your novel has a great ending
If you already have a plot outline and are in the process of writing your story, you need to consider how you plan to end your novel. You want to have a graceful dénouement after Detective X dodges the bullet, saves his rookie partner, and captures the crook, but let it be short and sweet, tying up any remaining loose ends into a tight, solid plot resolution. Perhaps Detective X stands on a bluff and scatters the ashes of the friendless victim, laying her to rest. Resist the urge to go on about how the detective marries the DA, and has six children—all of whom become detectives or lawyers. Remember our mantra: a plot is a complication followed by a plot resolution. The story is over when the complication, or in our example, the case, is solved.
Don't steal the thunder from your protagonist
It's important to remember that, in order to have a great ending, not every story has to end happily. Your young man may not find the girl of his dreams. He might realize that scheming is not the way to romance and decide that he needs to work on knowing himself before dedicating himself to knowing others. Whatever the plot resolution might be, Character X must bring it about himself. The police detective must be the one to catch (or not catch) the murderer at the end. There is no satisfaction in watching him struggle through clues and danger only to have someone ride in at the last moment and snatch the case out from under him. If your character has had the fortitude and leadership to be worthy of the role of protagonist in your story, he or she deserves to be the one who is involved in the plot resolution.
Don't disappoint your reader with a "paper dragon"
When trying to write a good plot, keep in mind that your plot resolution should not be a "paper dragon." A paper dragon is a plot resolution in which something that looks very real and frightening turns out to be inconsequential, and thus made of paper. Take it from our professionals—endings like these are frustrating and disappointing. If, in the end, it all turns out to be a dream or the character comes to realize that his wife really does love him and all his sneaking around to catch her cheating was for naught, your readers are going to feel cheated. While the "idiot script" is immensely popular in movies and may be entertaining enough for 90 minutes of viewing, we recommend leaving those kinds of stories for screenplays. Spending several hours reading about the ridiculous jealous husband's bungling is bound to get tiresome. If the reader is led to believe the husband hasn't been bungling and the wife really has been cheating all along, then it is frustrating that the drama turns out to be nothing. Don't waste the reader's sympathy. If you've given your character a serious problem to solve, let him or her solve it in a serious way in the plot resolution.
Get a professional opinion on your plot resolution
Not sure if your dénouement leaves readers hanging? Then ask one of our book editors for his/her opinion. You've worked too hard to have your novel ruined by a lackluster ending or hastily executed plot resolution!