The Pattern Of Resolving Conflict

Conflict that comes after the climax, after the core conflict is settled, is "resolving conflict."

In a story, the conflicts grow and intensify, the stakes rise, and the situation becomes more desperate up to the climactic moment. This is rising conflict. Then—pow!—the climax. Now, the conflicts that follow have the opposite pattern. The storm is receding; the intensity is lessening rather than increasing.

An event is "anticlimactic" if it has a rising conflict and comes after the core conflict is settled. No matter how inherently dramatic the event, the reader has little interest in it because the reader is now looking to see the effect of the climax on the characters.

Resolving conflict is often necessary to prove the premise and also to give the reader the feeling that the whole story has been told. Here's an example:

He [Scrooge] had not gone far, when, coming on toward him he beheld the portly gentleman who had walked into his counting house the day before, and said, "Scrooge and Marley's, I believe?" It sent a pang across his heart to think how this old gentleman would look upon him when they met, but he knew what path lay straight before him, and he took it.

"My dear sir," said Scrooge, quickening his pace, and taking the old gentleman by both his hands, "how do you do? I hope you succeeded yesterday. It was kind of you. A merry Christmas to you sir!"

"Mr. Scrooge?"

"Yes," said Scrooge. "That is my name, and I fear it may not be pleasant to you. Allow me to ask your pardon. And will you have the goodness—" Here Scrooge whispered in his ear.

"Lord bless me!" cried the gentleman, as if his breath were taken away. "My dear Mr. Scrooge, are you serious?"

"If you please," said Scrooge. "Not a farthing less. A great many back payments are included in it, I assure you. Will you do me that favor?"

"My dear sir," said the other, shaking hands with him, "I don't know what to say to such munifi—"

"Don't say anything, please," retorted Scrooge. "Come and see me. Will you come and see me?"

You will notice there is no "insistence and resistance" as there is in rising conflict. Think of resolving conflict as a winding down, a settling of accounts, a mopping-up operation following the decisive battle in a long war.

There are secondary conflicts which need resolving as well as the core conflict. They may be resolved before or after the climax of the core conflict.

The core conflict might be, say, Joe's struggle to get a job; a strong secondary conflict might involve Joe and his wife, who has left him during the course of the story. The outcome of the conflict between Joe and his wife may not be settled at the climax, where Joe accepts his new job; the question of Joe's reconciliation with his wife would still need to be resolved. This could be done by, say, having the break made permanent, or having the couple happily reconcile, or you could suggest they probably will get back together in the future. For example, she might agree to have dinner with him. Something like that would indicate how the conflict is likely to be resolved, which is often enough to satisfy a reader. If all the strings are too neatly tied, the reader may suspect the author of manipulation.

Some stories have no resolving conflict whatever, because all the questions are settled at the point of climax. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold climaxes and ends like this:

They seemed to hesitate before firing again; someone shouted an order, and still no one fired. Finally they shot him, two or three shots. He stood glaring around him like a blinded bull in the arena. As he fell, Leamas saw a small car smashed between great lorries, and the children waving cheerfully through the window.

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Responses

  • Kalimac
    How does the scrooge resolve conflict?
    7 years ago

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