1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them, so the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
– Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut, Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons 1999), 9-10.
I keep hearing this term “denouement” pop up in some of the writing materials I’ve been reading. What exactly is a denouement?
Denouement is a hard word to pronounce (and a harder word to spell for some of us, especially me—it’s one of my Achilles’ heels for some reason). But the role of the denouement in literature is not hard to comprehend and, once you understand it’s definition, you’ll be to spot it quite easily in most novels.
The denouement is the final outcome of the story, generally occurring after the climax of the plot. Often it’s where all the secrets (if there are any) are revealed and loose ends are tied up. For example, the denouement of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet comes just after the Romeo and Juliet take their own lives. When the families find their dead bodies, Escalus explains that their deaths are a result of the family feud, leaving members of both sides to feel guilty. That is the denouement.
As a writer, it’s important to keep this in mind when crafting your own story. While you want to give away bits of information about your plot (and subplots) throughout, you want to save the juiciest revelations for the end, rewarding readers for staying the course. That’s the ultimate goal of any good denouement