Five - Falling Action & Denouement

Five - Falling Action & Denouement

A Lesson by Alex

The Falling Action is more important than you might think!


The Falling Action can sometimes seem like a chore. We just hit that exciting Climax, and everything after just feels lackluster. Don’t falter, here, though, for we’re wading into final-impressions territory, and the reader will likely remember this part of the story most clearly – their attention span is at 200% after that climax, and they will be hyper-aware of a lack of effort.


No matter what your story’s been about so far, one of two things happened for sure in the climax: the Protagonist was successful, or he was not. Surprisingly, though, the formula for the Falling Action isn’t really different between either version. How does the Protagonist feel about the outcome of the Climax? How do each of the other supporting characters feel about it? How will the outcome come to affect the status quo the Introduction and Rising Action established?


Aaand that’s pretty much it. Of course, answering each of those questions could take multiple chapters, and depending on just how different the status quo has become, may even require an unofficial second introduction in order to cover all the bases. On the other hand, many stories can sum these up in a few paragraphs, though I wouldn’t recommend that. I think the Falling Action should take up at least one chapter. Even if it WOULD all still fit in a couple paragraphs, it’s good pacing to separate the Climax and Conclusion by at least one chapter.


In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the Falling Action begins with Harry’s conversation with Dumbledore in the Hospital Wing. Dumbledore explains that Quirrell has died, Voldemort has fled, the stone is safe, and Ron and Hermione are well. He also explains Harry’s mother’s sacrifice, and the powers it gave him. You’re right – none of this answers any of our Falling Action questions, does it? Well as a writer, it’s important that you understand what your story specifically will need in this part of the book besides answering those questions. A chapter-long explanation of the events of the Climax is hardly necessary in most Romance Novels, for instance.


Well, this conversation does answer some of it – the Status Quo, which hasn’t changed. Don’t be afraid of this kind of ending. Keeping the Status Quo the same as before doesn’t make for a boring or cookie cutter ending. Well, the Status Quo has changed a tiny bit: Voldemort is out there, and he’s actively seeking a way to gain his old power back. Though it’s not a big change at first, his factor will slowly grow over the next few books, until it’s the theme throughout the entirety of Book 5.


The rest of our questions are answered between the end of this conversation and the end of the End of Year Feast. Harry is anxious about Voldemort, but accepts that the next time there’s trouble, he will have to stop it again. Ron and Hermione are pretty much just glad that Harry made it back alive, and the rest of his classmates are impressed – all his blunders over the year that lost Gryffindor House points are forgotten and forgiven.


It’s just too bad that stupid Slytherin won the House Cup again…unless Dumbledore wants to answer a Falling Action question for us – by awarding Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Neville bonus points based on their actions leading up to and during the Climax, he establishes that being the good guy isn’t just its own reward. I’m not being sarcastic here – Dumbledore (the epitome of wisdom and good) shows his acceptance of the kids’ behavior and rewards them in front of the entire school. And the entire school (besides Slytherin) loves it. With this, Gryffindor wins the House Cup, and every kid who read this book is inspired to be the good guy – THEY want to be the hero! And it’s from witnessing this new Status Quo that inspires them. It’s not the Climax that makes them want to go out and vanquish evil, it’s the Falling Action! Surprised?


Well, that is why you shouldn’t slack on your Falling Action: the Climax needs it to be given context. We get that it’s significant from the Rising Action, but it’s the Falling Action that keeps its memory alive. Remember when I said that the Introduction is the foundation of the story? Well the Falling Action is the locks on the windows and doors; here is where you get closure and the moral of the story is addressed, keeping your experience of the story safe and secure.

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Added on August 7, 2015
Last Updated on August 12, 2015

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Cohoes, NY

Though I will occasionally write a poem here or there, poetry is not something that I consider myself well versed in - no pun untended. Because of that, I will usually not review other poems, as the b..