Every once in a while a writing principle that’s entirely new to me shakes my hand and says hello. When this happens, I feel energized and excited because I have a new tool to add to my writing arsenal. Recently, I became acquainted with a real gem: “the faux resolution.” Briefly described, this is a false conclusion to a story — a moment near the end of a story where everything seems to have been resolved, either for better or for worse, depending upon the plot. Then, at the very last moment, the story takes a final turn and the faux resolution falls apart and disintegrates.
Why add this twist to a story ending? Mainly because it adds an extra dose of excitement and tension. Readers or viewers feel that they’ve been taken on a roller coaster ride: they are plunged into the depths or lifted up one final time. Their expectations of how a story was going to resolve itself are upended — just as things happen so often in real life. If the faux resolution is artfully integrated into an ending, then it seems to be an inevitable part of the arc of the story — and so it’s satisfying, even if it’s disruptive or totally surprising.
One of the best ways to get hold of this concept is to see it in action. There’s a great faux resolution in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, for instance. And when I saw the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral again, I spotted this principle at work. And just recently, I saw a great film starring Jimmy Stewart, Call Northside 777, which featured a stellar faux resolution — one that really dashed your hopes and then lifted them up again at the 11th hour. Terrific! Right now, I’ve put this concept to work in my YA novel revision — and I have to say, it does add a satisfying dose of tension. Why not explore the concept and see if it works for you? And write on!