I know I learned it in both: “rising action” (tension and conflict building up), which leads to the “climax” of the story (the big moment, the big scene, which I’ve written about here), then “falling action” (where fall out is confronted), which ends in “resolution.”
Today I want to talk about falling action, because I’m editing the falling action of “The Magic Council” and because it’s the part of the “plot pyramid” that causes me the most trouble (usually) when I write.
FALLING ACTION TRAPS
There are plenty of ways to write good falling action, and there is never any “one size fits all” approach for good writing. That said, there ARE a few ways I’ve seen falling action go wrong that authors should be aware of.
If you have beta readers you really trust, it might not be a bad idea to ask them how they feel about these issues. Do they see a problem in any of the following areas?
- TOO MUCH FALLING ACTION. Generally, most authors shouldn’t have a whole lot of material following the climax. What engages readers is that build up and then delivery. After the “big moment,” things change. Mood and tone often change. You want to leave readers wanting more, wishing the book could be longer, not getting bored and frustrated because you dragged the ending out. (This is often my personal faux pas, by the way.)
- DROPPING A SUBPLOT. Falling action is the place to tie up your loose subplot threads. Since your subplots should be connected to each other and the main plot in various ways, it shouldn’t be too hard to wrap them up without a lot of fuss. (Sometimes you can wrap up two or three in one scene or conversation. Challenge yourself to this. It’s doable.) That said, it’s easy to forget we left something hanging. Editors and beta readers are great for pointing this out, but doing that kind of heavy lifting ourselves, so that those who are helping us can focus on deeper, subtler issues rather than having to point out bigger things, is always more beneficial.
- RUSHING THE PACE. Sometimes pacing isn’t about word count; sometimes it’s about how much depth you give in a sentence of the same length. Sometimes choosing to give two details about two different things rather than four about one is a pacing choice. Pacing is all about mood and helping your reader feel settled and comfortable. And since falling action is SUPPOSED to fall fast and not be too long, it can be tempting to rush it.
- UNREALISTIC CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. Falling action is all about accepting and responding to the changes in life necessitated by the climax. Authors can, and should, display character growth and development here. But that’s different than a character’s action making so little sense that readers are left scratching their heads, or worse, angry.
So, what do you think of falling action? I always loved The Harry Potter books and their wind downs. They spoke to the heart of soul of the story. The human lessons of Harry’s journey were always found in the falling action, for me at least.
Do you have examples of good falling action? Do you find it hard to write, or tend of fall into one of the traps I mentioned (or a different one?)