Amber Morn
Brandilyn Collins

Brandilyn Collins is a best-selling novelist known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense™. These harrowing crime thrillers have earned her the tagline “Don’t forget to b r e a t h e …®”. She writes for Zondervan, the Christian division of HarperCollins Publishers, and is currently at work on her 19th book. Her first, A Question of Innocence, was a true crime published by Avon in 1995 and landed her on local and national TV and radio, including the Phil Donahue and Leeza talk shows. She’s also known for her distinctive book on fiction-writing techniques, Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors (John Wiley & Sons), and often teaches at writers conferences.
Visit her blog at Forensics and Faith, and her website at Brandilyn to read the first chapters of all her books.


Sometimes the lines connecting the dots aren’t so easy to understand immediately...

How much should be explained to the reader in the resolution of a novel? I say not everything. That’s doesn’t mean I advocate leaving large parts of the story not wrapped up. Readers won’t like that, no matter the genre. My answer lies more with “connecting the dots” for the reader. I am for tying up loose ends. I am not for connecting every dot. I like to think my readers have the intelligence to do that on their own.

Let’s say I write a book in which the killer could be A, B or C. There’s also been a kidnapping, and readers are led to believe the perpetrator of that crime could also be A, B, or C. They’re further lead to believe (through the assumption-building process I employ) that whoever did the killing did the kidnapping. And it’s an absolute known fact that the kidnapper also committed a certain robbery. Turns out the killer is character D. And the kidnapper is character E. (Those twists again.) The revelation of these truths occurs during all the action of the crisis/climax.

Next comes the resolution, in which any loose ends are tied up. I don’t think I need to say in the resolution that character E did the robbery. That the kidnapper did the robbery was made clear during the story. I think I’d be talking down to my reader to “connect those dots” by stating the obvious.

Now, that’s a very simple example. Unfortunately the issues I deal with in my resolutions are much more convoluted. Sometimes the lines connecting the dots aren’t so easy to understand immediately. Sometimes they require a little logical thinking.

Ever come out of a movie theater after watching a twisty-plotted film, and as you’re walking to your car you’re saying to yourself, “Okay, so if this and that, then what about thus-and-so?” It takes a few minutes of putting together all the data points you were given in the resolution to answer your questions—but they are answerable.

If I took the time to connect every dot of logic in my resolutions, with all I have to cover, they’d be 25 pages long. And boring as all get out. And the reader would feel like I was talking down to him/her. On the other hand, there’s definitely

a balance. The reader is expecting a satisfying ending, and doesn’t want to have to logic through details for an hour or more. They should be able to connect the dots pretty quickly.

At any rate, this approach helps me make the resolution as short as possible. But at the same time, there’s yet another very important thing to balance—the reader’s need to see a satisfying conclusion in the personal lives of the characters. Not just does the heroine live to tell the tale—which is pretty much expected to happen. But how has it changed her? Where will she go from here? And what about those little romance nuances that were woven through the action? Does she get with the guy or not? Or is she at least thinking about it? And what spiritual revelation has she had, whether large or small? What does she intent to do about it?

So on one hand, I’ve got the dozens of details of how and when and why and by whom the myriad crimes occurred. On the other hand, there’s all the personal stuff. How to create a resolution that will cover all these very necessary aspects, and satisfy the reader? Let’s say I have no idea what the resolution scene will be. (Which is usually true. The right scene becomes apparent after I’ve written the crisis/climax.)

To help find the right scene, I ask myself two questions. Next month in Part III, we’ll take a look at those.

Amber Morn