How to Write a Denouement
To write a good denouement, you have to set yourself up for it. That is, you have to write a story with multiple plotlines that can be tied up in the end. There’s no one set of rules for writing a denouement — it depends completely on your specific story and how you want it to end. The denouement can be happy or sad, surprising or expected, action-packed or calm and serene. There are just a couple of pointers to keep in mind:
- Write the story first. Let the denouement emerge naturally. In most cases, it wouldn’t be a good idea to start writing with the denouement and then work backwards — doing this might result in a story that doesn’t match the denouement very well, which is unsatisfying. In order to write the denouement well, you have to know exactly how the story goes — and the only way to know that is to write it!
- Short and sweet! Even a great story can be ruined by a drawn-out denouement. Once the climax is passed and the villain defeated, you don’t need to show all of your characters saying goodbye, packing their bags, etc. You can let the reader imagine the aftermath. Instead, write a short, punchy denouement that gives the reader some clues about what comes next, but don’t overdo it.
- Show, don’t tell. The denouement should answer the audience’s questions about what was going on in the story, if there are any left. However, it’s better to do this by showing rather than telling. In other words, you shouldn’t just come right out and explain the answers one by one. Instead, try to write a scene that lets the audience figure things out on their own. It’s a tricky balancing act – you want to say enough that your audience can be satisfied and figure out the answers, but if you say too much then the audience can feel bored or dissatisfied.
When to Use Denouement
The denouement is a feature of literature, so it belongs to creative writing more than formal essays. However, good writers are often tempted to include a denouement in their essays — they want to save their best points for the end, so that the reader has a sudden “A-HA” moment, a “big reveal” right as the paper is ending. Writing this way gives your paper the structure of a story rather than an argument, and some people feel that this will make it more enjoyable to read. While it can work in some cases, though, this is a very risky way to structure an essay! In a good essay, you should lead with your strongest points so that the reader understands exactly what you’re going to say. So, it’s not a good idea to save them for the end. If you try to include a denouement in your essay, you risk leaving the reader confused and frustrated.