Finally, we are at the end of our series where I’ve attempted to provide a thumbnail description of each component of the Three-Act Structure. Let’s look at the Resolution, where everything is finally resolved in one or a handful of scenes.
Technically, our story ended with the climax, where the good guy gets the bad guy (or the opposite if that’s the way your story goes). However, this isn’t satisfying to most readers.
Why? They are like you and me. After we’ve spent ten or more hours with an enjoyable character, we don’t want to walk away cold turkey. That’s too psychologically shocking. It’s akin to losing a good friend to a deadly accident. At a minimum, we want a glimpse of what the future holds for this wonderfully interesting character.
This puts him in a similar mental location as your good friend from college who returned to Italy after graduation and joined his family’s wine-making business. You know life goes on for him in a quasi-certain manner, and that you will probably never see him again. But that’s okay. You have wonderful memories of your college days together.
There’s another important aspect to the Resolution. Readers want to recognize and contemplate how the hero changed over the life of your story. Say, at the beginning, he is strikingly judgmental, even bigoted. He often made fun of people of color, gays, trans, you get it. Then, something happened (might be a series of ‘somethings’) over the story that changed his mind. He recognized why he held his former beliefs and how damaging they were, not only to those who heard his remarks, but to his own well-being. By the Resolution, the hero could be a primary leader supporting a Black Lives Matter protest. Readers register this positive change arc and believe, at least subliminally, they themselves can change for the better even if they are not judgmental or bigoted.
The scene or scenes that comprise the Resolution are usually short, but that depends on the number of loose ends that need to be tied off. Most writers say shorter is better—I obviously didn’t think so in The Boaz Seeker. Let me admit, it wound up being way too long but, to my elementary mind, needed.
Speaking of The Boaz Seeker. SPOILER ALERT. Several months transpire between the Climax and the Resolution. This timeframe correlates with the remaining months of Cullie’s pregnancy. The Resolution begins with an acknowledgment that her and Josh are married and little Katherine Aella Miller entered the world just a few weeks earlier. Everything seems great, despite an overhanging sadness left by Kate’s (Cullie’s mom) death.
Cullie and Josh are flying to St. Lucia in the Caribbean for a long-delayed honeymoon, and to celebrate their recent high school graduation. During the long flight from Birmingham, Cullie has plenty of time to think (while Josh reads Nick Saban’s book). She relays the resolution to several issues that haven’t been tied off.
Finally, the plane lands and the couple arrives at their private romantic villa on St. Lucia’s northwestern shore. Again, all bodes well for the young couple: two weeks in this gorgeous hideaway, and, at the end of summer, on to the University of Alabama where Josh plans to walk on as a prospective quarterback and Cullie puts her educational plans on hold to care for baby Katherine (nickname Kas).
After an enjoyable romp in the villa’s waterbed, the couple sets out to the beach for a long swim in the ocean. Cullie answers a phone call from sister Alysa, fearing something might be wrong with Kas.
Thankfully, Kas is healthy and happy. Unfortunately, there is some troubling news. Alysa relays a discovery that could alter Cullie and Josh’s plans. Forever. A body has been discovered that could connect to actions our couple engaged in to help Kate avoid prison.
In tragedy, it’s hard to find a good resolution; it’s not black and white: it’s a big fog of gray.Paul Dano
Of course, you’ll have to read The Boaz Seeker for the full picture. My point here is that not all stories end with, “and they lived happily ever after.” This isn’t the Resolution’s aim (although it can be). What’s necessary is that our readers ‘walk away’ knowing that our hero’s life goes on long after the book has ended.
This brings up the final characteristic of a good Resolution. Sorry, I’ve indirectly already said this. It’s the tone we want our readers to take away from our story. Happy? Sad? Bittersweet? We as authors decide, but it needs to fit. As you now know, The Boaz Seeker leaves readers bittersweet, but with a twist.
Cullie is bitter over what happened to her mom (again, read the book to properly grasp), but the young mother is happy to have Josh (he was the envy of every girl in high school!) as her husband, and darling Kas as her daughter. Yet Alysa’s news is foreboding.
The story ends with Cullie happy but anxious of what might lie ahead, remembering especially what happened with her mom.
In sum, we want our readers to ‘walk away’ satisfied with their investment of time and money in our story.