Tuesday, April 3, 2012

More about the ending and resolution of conflicts

So am consulting on a book approaching the ending. Here's the scenario:
College football player learns to commit during a terrible season. When he commits, he helps the team win the last game.

The big climax is of course the game and the victory. That wraps up/resolves the internal conflict about the young player's refusal to commit. He commits, and it works out.

Okay, so there's another event which is sort of a culmination of a subplot, the sort of sentimental interest of an old NFL coach in this raggedy team (donating old equipment from his NFL team, etc.). As it is, in the end of the second-to-last chapter, he calls the young player and says, "I like your spunk, kid. I'll give you a tryout on my pro team if you like it-- no promises, but you can show your stuff."

Now what's interesting is the placement. The writer had it preliminarily placed before the game climax, just before, in fact, so that the young player goes into the game with this on his mind. I pointed out that to me that just opens up a new conflict for him (as he has plans to take a job in Europe for the summer when the tryout would be). And posing it on page 282 and resolving it with a yes or no on page 294 might feel, well, too pat. Too "wrapped up."

I suggested experimenting with putting it at the very end, after the big game. That way it wouldn't really be a new conflict (no time to debate), but rather the validation that he was right to commit to football. No matter what he does, this shows that he's "made it," done the right thing. It's actually an answer, not a new question.

Anyway, it felt that way to me, that placing the very same event a dozen pages later-- at the end of the final scene rather than at the beginning-- would give the reader satisfaction and not disorientation.
What do you all think? Can placement make that big a difference? What if he never makes a decision (which he wouldn't if the request comes at the very end)? Do you think that having it early would let him make a decision and thus close something? Or is it better ro leave the reader unsettled, with an earlier "demand" but no decision?

 That made me think, btw,  of that great sports story Rocky. I have always thought that the ending of the first film was one of the aspects that made it so much better than all the other films. You remember that Rocky doesn't WIN the big fight; rather he gets a split decision. The champ wins (they wouldn't let a challenger back then win on a split decision), and with his last breath, says, "No rematch!" (Of course, they do have a rematch in the next film.) That was Rocky's big victory-- he conviinced one judge that he'd won, and he sufficiently intimidated his opponent that Apollo didn't want to fight again. That was a satisfactory ending without being too "wrapped up." He just wanted to prove he wasn't a stupid thug, and he did that.


1 comment:

green_knight said...

Can placement make that big a difference?

Absolutely. And if it comes before the game, then it's a reward for not-caring rather than a reward for giving his all in a hopeless situation.

Which doesn't mean that it was misplaced. In order to make it work where it is, the focus shifts on the coach - on how well he reads the player, on him finding exactly the thing that will motivate the player: maybe it's the fear that he will never be good enough, so cruising along provides him with an excuse. Maybe it's stage fright.
And maybe the coach will shame him into realising that he *didn't* deserve recognition, and *now* he goes out to earn it.

And either of these would be, to my mind, *more* interesting than 'you fought well, here's your reward' because fighting well and getting rewarded is such a common, boring narrative; the coach using his knowledge of this particular player to motivate him in an unusual manner sounds more interesting to me.