Last week you learned about the difference between a midpoint and a climax, where both fall in the story, and how they affect your story. Remember that one way to use the midpoint effectively is to make it a false victory/defeat. Then you do the inverse at your climax to drive home the point that your character has learned what needs to be learned. Now, after all that work of making sure your exposition, rising action, and climax work together to the novel’s major conflict, you must deal with the aftermath of those actions. There is no cause without effect.
What is the Falling Action?
The falling action is the part of your story where the immediate effects of the climax occur. In a hero’s journey, this can be the travel back home after vanquishing the enemy. Your falling action length doesn’t have to be long. For some stories, it’s a page, for others it’s a few chapters. If you’re writing an epic fantasy, you’ll most likely fall into the latter, but a low stakes story of self-development will more than likely take only a page. Here is a great point to have your character reflecting on the events of the climax in their own way, but also don’t forget what the climax did to your character. If your protagonist, just fought a dragon, battled with laser swords, or survived an explosion, don’t instantly heal your character, unless that’s what your magic system can do. Remembering these small things during the falling action can give your resolution more solidarity with the story.
Why is falling action important?
Falling action is like that breath of relief after a tense situation. Your characters may not be fully aware of the direct effects of their actions, but they have that moment to go “I guess we survived,” or whatever accurately conveys the story’s arc. But much like after an earthquake, there will be aftershocks that the characters will need to deal with in the resolution, and follow on story if it is part of a series. But don’t let the negative connotation of an earthquake shake you from what the falling action is focusing on. If your hero just vanquished the grand demon of the nine realms, then you’ll probably see, feel, or experience an immediate change in the character’s vicinity.
The immediate changes can appear in the world around the character. To continue our demon analogy, say this demon would kill any plants it walked by, any who it passed would smell a rotten sulfuric scent, or it removed the strength of anything it saw as an enemy. One of the inverse effects might occur once slain, such as plants restoring, a stench of death no longer present, or they restored the extraordinary abilities of the heroes. These immediate changes give the reader a sense of relief and satisfaction that the time they’ve committed to reading your works has been worthwhile.
Falling action is a big part of what keeps readers coming back to your books. When they see you know how to stay true to the promises you set up at the beginning of your story, tell them they can count on you as a writer. Sometimes the falling can carry more weight than the climax. How many times has someone explained a book or movie to you as “And then after the battle the hero (gave away, sacrificed, etc.) their power (or whatever they gained) to (save the world, remain with their true love, allow another to prosper).” Think of your falling action as that part of the story. By focusing on this, it will allow a slow burn into the last part of your story regarding plot the Resolution. Thank you for reading. As always, keep writing, keep learning, and stay fresh, my nugs.
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