At last we come to the final confrontation in this series on story structure. The hero has battled his inner demons and emerged with new determination, new prowess, new strength to face the opposition for the final time.
When I say “new strength” I do not mean to suggest that the hero should come to the final battle refreshed, healed, confident. Many times he will come limping and convinced of his own impending defeat, but he comes with the knowledge that he now has something he didn’t have before he faced himself down at the second plot point.
What do we need now for a successful resolution? I believe it was writer Larry Brooks who said it this way: the stakes of the story are paid and the reader’s emotional experience concluded. Notice nothing in there says the hero wins/loses and gets his happy/unhappy ending.
The stakes of the story are paid. This is prime Donald Maass territory. The questions he puts forth in The Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook and The Fire In Fiction really open up this issue and start poking around in the entrails. (Who else is going to give you that imagery, my fellows?) Has there been a sacrifice to preserve what is at stake? Has it cost the hero enough? Have there been costs for the innocent? Who must be forgiven, and who can forgive?
Can the hero fail to attain his goal? What would that look like? What would be utterly lost? What would be partially lost? What might not be lost but changed? Does the debris of defeat settle to reveal an unforeseen alternate path of resolution?
Foremost among all these considerations is this: is the hero the primary catalyst for the story resolution?
If not…why is he the hero?
All things, even the hero, must come full circle, concluding the emotional experience presented for the reader.
And on a final note, if you guys head over to my Unsafe Haven blog, you'll find a fun post on songs I would choose for my WIP's soundtrack. It's part of the What's the Score Blogfest. Check it out.