Writing the Final Scene: the Denouement


The denouement is everything that follows after the climax, with one purpose: to wrap up the story. The story has peaked, the major tension has gone. Readers now crave two things. First, a final reactionary scene to show the consequences of the plot and the fate of the characters. Second, answers to all remaining story-questions.


A successful denouement offers three things:

  1. Closure: gives your readers information about the fate of the characters so they feel the book is truly over. Show how the main character responds to the climax, how he feels and thinks now, how he sees the world and himself.
  2. Brevity: do not deflate the emotion from the climax by going on too long.
  3. Dramatization: make the denouement still feel like part of the story, not just a dump of exposition.

The steps of writing a great ending

First, become the reader. Put the story away for a while so you can look back on it with fresher eyes. Read it as if you have never laid eyes on it before. Consider asking feedback from a person who has never seen it before, for objective feedback.

Secondly, track the silent promises you made. Try to word it in a few sentences to remind yourself which promises you must deliver on. Now re-read your ending and see if those promises are truly met.

Thirdly, pretend to be an editor. Look critically at your list of scenes and what happens in them. Are there scenes that could be cut without it affecting the story? Cut them. Are there scenes you can combine into a more compact punch? Do it. The signature of any good writer is the skill of word economy. Good prose does not drag along. It only uses the words necessary to tell the story and deliver the punch, no filling.

Fourth, rewrite whatever mistakes or confusions you have found so far. Polish your prose.

Haven (1999) Wright Right; Creative Writing Using Storytelling Techniques.