TAP024, How to Write the Denouement Scenes for Your Novel
So, you’ve reached the end of the climactic sequence of your novel, and you’re wondering how to give your story a satisfying conclusion. Or, perhaps you’re currently outlining your novel, and you’re stuck and not sure how to plan the denouement scenes for your story in a way that will satisfy your future readers. I know the idea of having to wrap up every loose thread in your novel can be daunting. Trust me; I’ve been at that place three times before. That’s why, in this episode, I’m going to explain what are the denouement scenes, share three tips on how to write and structure these scenes, and breakdown three examples from literature.
About The Series
Before I dive into the writing tips, this is the thirteenth instalment in my series on three-act structure. If you’ve just joined me on this episode then, I will link the previous twelve episodes below.
- TAP012, What is Three-Act-Structure?
- TAP013, Plot and Structure: The Hook
- TAP014, How to Write a Great Ordinary World Scene
- TAP015, How to Write the Inciting Incident
- TAP016, How to Write the First Plot Point Scene
- TAP017, How to Write the Rising Action Scenes
- TAP018, How to Write the Midpoint of a Novel
- TAP022, How to Write the Climactic Sequence of a Novel
- TAP023, How to Write the Hero at the Mercy of the Villain Scene in a Novel
The Transition Between Season One and Two
After this, there is one episode left in series one. The episode will focus on how to structure a story using the hero’s journey; so keep an eye out for this in your favourite podcasting app. Depending on the length of the episode I may decide to break up the show into parts, which I will release every week. But, I will let you know if this is necessary.
In the event of multiple shows on the hero’s journey, there will be two podcast episodes per week until we reach the final episode. So, this means one episode on the hero’s journey and one Behind the Scenes Diary show each week. After this, between season one and two, I will transition back to weekly Behind the Scene Podcast Diary episodes, where I will talk about my experiences with revision and the next steps in the publishing journey for my thriller novels, Missing, Duplicity, and Immunity.
In A Nutshell
The name of this plot point is borrowed from the French word “le dénouement”, and its literal translation is finish or untying. It’s also referred to as the Return to the Real World plot point. Essentially, it’s the final outcome of your story that occurs after the climactic sequence, where you ease back the tension and reduce the story conflict. In this scene or scenes, depending upon the length of your story, any secrets are revealed and all loose ends are tied up.
Even though you want to tie up loose ends, there is one thing you need to avoid. And that is, destroying all your hard work in writing the story by crafting a long and drawn out summary. With all of that in mind, how do you write the Denouement scenes for your novel? Next, I’m going to share with you three tips for writing these final scenes for your novel in a way that will satisfy your readers.
Tip #1 – Tie Off All Loose Ends
The story question you posed in the first act or the promise of the inciting incident, needs to be answered in the Denouement. But, not all stories need everything tied up in a pretty bow. However, if you’re writing the first book in a series or a book that’s a part of a larger story, you’re better off writing a denouement that achieves the fulfilment of promises but also leaves a few questions lingering in the mind of your characters and readers.
At the same time, you need to give your readers enough explanation that they’ll be satisfied with your story. So, keep in mind that readers want to know what happened, how, and why. And they want answers for each of the major plot threads and characters, including the protagonist, antagonist, and any other characters they’ve come to care about.
Improving upon the Denouement of your story is something that can be achieved by paying attention to feedback from alpha or beta readers. Especially, if you have a lot of comments about “what happened to this character?” or “how did things work out with this storyline?” Dropping a storyline is an easy thing to do when you have a more complicated novel with multiple story threads.
Tip #2 – Show the Protagonist’s Condition After His Journey
A great return to the real world scene is not just about the apparent tying up of loose ends and story questions. It’s also about your protagonist’s journey, both physical and emotional. You need to show both the emotional and literal wounds they’ve developed as a result, of the previous events. The Denouement answers two questions about this inner journey.
How has the events of the story affected the way your hero views himself and his world?
Because your character has come out the other side, they should view their real world through the eyes of the events that have just unfolded. It’s only natural, and it’s what we do as humans. This new world view is what causes a mother who has just lost a child to become overprotective of her other children. Or, a once trusting person to become distrustful of their loved ones when they learn a secret from their past that others have hidden from for years.
What realisations have they made about themselves?
It’s in moments of distress that we often see who we are in our core, once all the masks we wear are shed. And, sometimes this can be of a surprise. We can often do things that surprise us, and in moments of reflection, we try to reconcile these two versions of ourselves, who we were before and who we are now. The same should be true of your hero. These more profound moments cause your protagonist to be more relatable.
Answering these questions is how you show your hero’s personal growth, that complete transformation from the beginning to where they are right now. Growth is essential, even for those characters that seem to change very little throughout the series.
Tip #3 – Show How Things Could Move Forward for the Characters
The final scenes of your novel set the story up for the next book. This is especially true if you’re writing in a series. It’s almost as if you’re starting to sell the next in the series before you’ve started writing. You need to allude to the fact there’s still danger ahead for your protagonist. But, it needs to be subtle, unlike a cliffhanger that leaves the reader suspended with no real resolution. So, nudge at any potential future events by demonstrating that while major arcs have been resolved, there are a few minor conflicts that have yet to be worked out.
Examples of the Denouement in Literature
To help you craft the best denouement scenes for your story here are three examples from literature.
In Romeo and Juliet, the families find the bodies of the star-cross lovers. Escalus explains their deaths are a result of the family feud, leaving members of both sides to feel guilty.
In The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway is trying and failing to plan Gatsby’s funeral. It’s in this scene where Gatsby’s father reveals his son’s humble beginnings to Nick. After this moment he decides to return to the midwest, but first, he reflects on his summer in West Egg in Gatsby’s boarded up house, with one of literature’s most quoted closing lines: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
At the end of the final instalment of The Hunger Games Trilogy, Katniss and Peeta have married and are living a quiet life together with their two un-named children. Well, they’re unnamed for us but named for them. Maybe, I’m a little confused between the book and the movie ending but, it’s in this final moment that we realise the actual effects that the events of the three novels had on Katniss. It’s been a while since I read this, but I think the scene is from her point of view, and she is talking to her sleeping child. Katniss tells the baby in her arms that one day when she’s old enough, she will explain why she has nightmares.
In order to write a compelling Denouement, you need to show, the protagonist’s condition after his journey, tie off all loose ends, and show how things could move forward for the characters. Now, I have an important question for you. Are you struggling to write the Denouement or the return to the real world scene in your novel? I want to hear from you. Share your experience with writing the denouement scenes or ask a question in the comments section or tweet me at WriterADHay.
Thank you for listening, reading, commenting and sharing with such enthusiasm.
I’m Amelia. When I’m not hosting the Authorpreneur Podcast™️ and the Book Nerd Podcasts, I write Mystery Novels under the pen name A. D. Hay. And, I’m the author of Suspicion, the Lawn, and the Candidate.
On this blog, I help new writers to finish their first draft, prepare their manuscripts for professional editing, and when they get stuck in the first draft phase or are confused about the revision process.
Right now, I’m editing and preparing my soon to be published mystery novels, Suspicion, Duplicity, 24 Hours, and Immunity for publication.