Your main character has just triumphed, or perhaps, if you are writing a tragedy, the heartwrenching climax of the story has occured. Regardless, that moment your protagonist has been moving toward since page one has just happened. You have skillfully navigated your reader through all of the adventures of the story, developing character, imparting your message, delivering excitement, drama, or perhaps even inspiration. Now what? The lovers have reconnected, the battle has been won, the bad guy has been vanquished. You can’t just stop writing. Well, maybe if you do it just right you can, but often far better to have a short but gentle finish, an afterglow to the climax. You are ready to write the Denouement.
The what? No, its not pronounced Dee-noo’-mint. It’s Dei-nu-mah’ (with a hard “a”), or perhaps if you wish, Dei-nu-mahn’ (with a barely heard “n”). Now you won’t be embarrassed the first time you say it outloud in the company of writers. You’re welcome.
But what is it? French for “Untying the knot”, it is the end of your story, that short little piece that comes after the climax. It wraps up loose ends. In case the outcome was unclear by the end of the climax, it reassures us that we got what we came for. If the climax is the adrenaline rush of your story, the denouement is the smile at the end. Its the goodnight kiss; or as only Spielberg could pull off, it’s Indiana Jones riding into the sunset.
You may have figured out how to write your story all the way through the climax, but the denouement seems more intuitive. You may not know what it is going to be until you get there. I had a good idea of how to end Draegnstoen, but that last, satisfying paragraph didn’t manifest itself until the very end. And then the idea just happened, a small, almost insignificant thing intended to provoke the barest hint of a sad smile. Does it work? Well, we shall see.
But if everything else in your story works and then at the end, you “untie that knot” with just the right subtle flourish, you have won over the reader.