What happened to story resolutions/denouements?
A major component in a story seems to be atrophying as I continue to read. You've got your narrative hooks, your expositions, rising action, climax, etc, but it seems like many authors don't bother to write more than a token resolution/outro to their stories anymore.
Remember Harry Potter? After the big battle, there was always the hospital scene (resolution), where we learn of the fallout and changes that the results of the climax are going to have on the world or story as a whole, then the end of the year feast, serving as a decompression, and finally the train-ride home.
Ok I saw Return of the King also, and I agree, endings can go on too long. However, endings in the vein of A New Hope to me are even worse. "Here's your medal, now go away!" is to me jarring and fundamentally unsatisfying.
The last few books I've read, to continue with the Harry Potter example, have only given me the hospital wing scene. The beat-to-hell hero is told how things fell out after they lost consciousness. End of story. No Feast, no train-ride, no decompression.
I bring up "A New Hope" specifically because I remember reading something from author Jim Butcher that this was what he modeled his conclusions on. I love me some Jim Butcher but I disagree with this specific conclusion of his completely, and I wanted to know what people who are a bit more educated than me on the subject might think, and this seems like a good place for that.
That’s a really good question, and I can speak for myself/hazard a guess, though of course I can’t speak for every writer out there.
The style right now is to get out as soon after the climax as you can, in order to make the third act feel like a memorable gut-punch rather than a punch to the gut followed by a lengthy period of recovery that gives the reader’s emotions time to cool down.
There’s also the series component, as in “If the next installment is coming out in six months or less, why would I tie up lingering story threads after the plot of this installment has been resolved? I can just do it in the next one.”
People tend to lose interest quickly when there’s nothing to work toward anymore, and once the climax has ended, then the goal is either achieved or not achieved. And it takes a lot of confidence to say “Now that you’ve read my story about fighting Godzilla, I’m sure you’ll also want to see my characters going back home and starting an ordinary life again after Godzilla’s dead and buried.”
Having said that, I think the one exception is at the end of a series. You DO want to see the characters going back to their boring ordinary lives after going on an awesome adventure for years, because that’s the payoff. That’s what you were really reading for all this time. And if you made it to the end of a massive series without investing in the characters and their lives to some degree, then...how did you do that?
And having said THAT, nothing says there can’t be actual falling action and resolution in each book of a story. Harry Potter is a good example, but part of what makes it work for Harry is that it’s a narrow scope, and that each book is structured after a school year.
Narrow scope: it’s just Harry. We get to see the fallout of the book’s events on Hogwarts at the end-of-term feast, then Harry and Ron and Hermione separate with implications of what they’re going to do that summer, but we don’t follow Ron or Hermione home. We follow Harry home, because there’s one main character and we can stay focused on him.
Structure: you’re not really reading Harry Potter to see if he finds the Philosopher’s Stone and saves the school or if he gets murdered, you’re reading to see him go through an imaginative school year of magic and adventure.
Sure, the plot part keeps you reading, but with a structure like that you don’t immediately lose narrative momentum as soon as the primary plot question is resolved. You can get away with three more chapters of no danger because there’s still magic and imagination on display and the school year isn’t over yet.
Books that don’t have such a structure aren’t working with quite as much leeway, because the assumption is that the readers are reading to see the conclusion of the plot. And once that’s over they want the book to be too.
That’s the theory, anyway.
Your theory may illustrate the difference between plot-based and character-based readers. As said elsewhere, at the end of the Wheel of Time we have much invested in a large number of individual characters, and we want to see what happens with them regardless of the outcome of the Last Battle. If one doesn't put much effort in their characters, I can see why they wouldn't want to stretch their plot out.
I see what you mean, but I don't think I agree.
In Wheel of Time's case, the series DID need a more thorough resolution, and (I suspect) would have had one if Robert Jordan had been around to write it. But of course it needed one: like I said above, the end of a series generally needs proper wrap-up regardless, and how would any reader get to the end of such a huge series if they didn't sympathize with the characters?
It's not really about the amount of effort you put into your characters. While there are readers who prefer a tight plot and readers who would be fine reading a story about a handful of fascinating characters doing nothing in particular, I also don't think it has to do with one type of reader or another.
Even if you don't have a drawn-out denouement and resolution, you still want strong characters in the entire rest of the story, so not having those things doesn't really reflect an emphasis on plot over characters.
A properly executed resolution is part of a well-structured plot, so that also doesn't mean choosing characters over plot.
When you're designing a story, you have to assume what your readers are primarily reading for, and plot accordingly. If you're writing a mystery where the driving motivating factor is supposed to be the reader's curiosity as to who killed the Space Pope, then it makes sense not to stick around too long after the killer has been revealed.
If instead you're writing a story about (just off the top of my head) a boy going to wizard school, then the thing driving the reader to keep reading is presumably "I want to see what happens to this guy at wizard school." So you can afford to spend a little extra time on that.
Which doesn't have much to do with the amount of effort invested or not invested into your characters, because Harry Potter is a bland character with very few unique personality traits. He's...brave, and...other things, probably.
But that doesn't impact the series almost at all, because you still sympathize with Harry, his decisions and actions usually drive the plot, the side characters are great, the world is great, and generally speaking the plot is interesting and very engaging.
TL;DR - I don't think any kind of "plot vs. character" dichotomy affects this decision at all.