How to write a satisfying conclusion to your novel (final battle scene/character resolution)

After I finished writing BookCraft, I got a little obsessed with the particularities of writing a satisfying conclusion or resolution. It’s something I started noticing in TV shows and movies, especially: how the hero’s personal quest was deliberately illustrated with a hard comparison, a “before and after” that represented in a symbolic way the internal shift of change that was forced through the narrative journey.

I talked about it a bit in this blog post I wrote for Nanowrimo: “Each character’s unique challenge will match their personal weakness or fear. The price for victory is the one thing they have so far refused to do, or something they cannot give up or bear to lose.”

The plot is what happens, and it’s important. But you can make it more dramatic and meaningful by making sure you demonstrate how hard it was and what it cost. It matters, it is remarkable, because it forced your protagonist to change.

Your conclusion might include:

  • Physical tension as allies perform a tug-of-war battle against resistance, that shows how difficult this struggle is, and how much force is required.
  • The consideration phase, as characters are tempted last minute or the price for victory is revealed: the sweet memories that give them awareness that this fight is worth the cost or risk (you need to show them making the choice, knowing what they will lose).
  • The final flashback, as the full backstory is revealed so we can see exactly why this conflict is so difficult or meaningful for the main character.

Final battle scene checklist

I also went ahead and attempted to make a checklist for your final battle scene…

  1. Confrontation (prepare to die)
  2. Unexpected forces (ambush)
  3. Divided and unarmed
  4. Help/support from allies
  5. Alone with antagonist (reveal/twist INFO)
  6. Hero at mercy of villain
  7. Inner/outer battle
  8. Final moment (change, realization)
  9. Lose the battle/surprise escape.

The most important one of those, however, is #8: the final moment. This is the whole purpose of the book – the hero must resist this change. This change threatens everything the protagonist is, what they’ve resisted or feared their whole life; what they have previously been existentially unable to endure.

This is the breathless pause, the moment of peak drama and suspense, the “will the hero survive?”

For more examples, I recently broke down a bunch of popular media, including some Netflix stuff and the Snyder Cut of Justice Leak, to show how this moment can be enhanced. Check it out here.

About Derek Murphy

Hey there! I'm a philosophy dropout and book cover designer with a PhD in Literature. After spending a decade as a starving artist, I vowed to create the life of freedom my restless spirit demands. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write young adult fantasy novels and do a few editorial critiques to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles. FREE GUIDE: Book Marketing is Dead.