23 September 2011

The No-Resolution Resolution

by Diane Carlisle


We read a story for my creative writing class and it was one of those stories that end where the hero and villain come together, the final battle, they both reach for the last sword. Both are bruised and bloodied and basically on their last breath. When they reach for the sword at the same time, the story ends. What? It’s called a no-resolution resolution.

I was thinking about the no-resolution resolution and this whole thing about nobody in the end winning. That ending feels so not right to me. There's no period on the end there that tells me I just read a great story. The two just reach for the sword and that's it?

How about the ending of some horror movies where it's obviously over, the protagonist/hero/heroine has overcome these horrible events. They are safe and away from this dangerous lunatic. Then BLAM! A decaying hand springs up from a freshly dug grave...screams everywhere, OH MY GOD!

Yea, I hate that too.

I don't like open conflicts with no resolution, especially in a story. I'd still be taping soap operas if that were the case. Characters in those even come back to life to make sure the conflict stays fully engaged! Come on, really?

I prefer a more classic story that resonates forever, that nothing could ever take away even when it ends, something that has a real impact and a resolution. Once I experience the journey of a character, please don't destroy it (years later) with, "...and THEN." I'm like, "Nooooooo, don't!" Well, with the exception of Grease 2, loved it. But it was a complete new cast and a different story.

I'm getting away from writing now and moving into the movies, so sorry about that.

Another example is The Matrix. It was a hit. Then they came out with Matrix Reloaded and Revolution (back to back literally). In the first movie, Neo learns to use his powers to battle the wonderful Agent Smith. Then in Reloaded, he's stronger and more powerful, so he can essentially battle several of these replicated Agent Smiths. Finally, in Revolution he fights an insane number of Agent Smiths. With power growing exponentially, thus does the number of Agent Smiths. Really? REALLY?? I feel about this no-resolution resolution this same way. What's the point?


It's not natural. It goes against our basic human instinct, survival and resolution. If there is no resolution, then there is eternal conflict and the need for another chapter. This is good for capitalistic minds, but for the sake of art, I don't like it. It doesn't work for me because it's a cop out to the final product. Some write to market, others for the art.

A no-resolution resolution isn't something that I imagine a good read, especially not in a short story, maybe not even in a novel. An epic series, maybe, like Harry Potter. Eventually, each character must come to the end of his or her journey and there must be a reason, that reason is a resolution.

Until Harry Potter gives up his wand, his journey will continue, one right after the other. Dorothy went home; she gave up her ruby slippers. Something needs to be resolved for the protagonist when I read those final two words, The End. That's when a story is truly a story, not when the final two words are, stay tuned....

Are you okay with the no-resolution resolution?

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