Releasing your inner dragon

What is the Falling Action of a Story and Why Is It Crucial for Reader Satisfaction?

May 10, 2024 Marie Mullany & Maxwell Alexander Drake Season 4 Episode 17
What is the Falling Action of a Story and Why Is It Crucial for Reader Satisfaction?
Releasing your inner dragon
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Releasing your inner dragon
What is the Falling Action of a Story and Why Is It Crucial for Reader Satisfaction?
May 10, 2024 Season 4 Episode 17
Marie Mullany & Maxwell Alexander Drake

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Join Drake and Marie as they discuss the falling action of your story, the denouement.
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Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

Join Drake and Marie as they discuss the falling action of your story, the denouement.
Writer's room (50% off for lifetime membership):

Membership for Just In Time Worlds:

Give us feedback at releasingyourinnerdragon(at)gmail(dot)com


Drake's Contact Details:
Starving Writer Studio:
Drake-U:  - Use RYID25 for 25% off!
Writer's Room:

Marie's contact details:
Just In Time Worlds:

So why is the falling action, the return so important? Because it really is kind of the exclamation point at the end of your sentence.

it's the taste that you will leave a reader with. Now, I'm a wine drinker. I know you don't really drink, but I'm a wine drinker. And wine has got a thing called the aftertaste. And so when you drink a really good mouthful of wine, it leaves a feeling in your mouth and a taste that lingers on your tongue.

And the falling action is like that. It is the it is the taste you're leaving in your reader's mouth with. They go. I enjoyed drinking down that author's cup of wine. I think that I could have another one of those cups. They were great. They left me feeling good.

Releasing your inner dragon.

all right, Marie, tell me what this whole falling action is. That's a really weird, really weird statement or title. What is falling action?

Well, falling action is when a boy author, and a girl author.

That was romance. That was romance, we’re done with that one.

Cuddle after words.

So it really just pertains to the boy author.

Well, the the purpose of falling action is to unwind, the tension gradually after the climactic moment of the the book and to show the consequences to the protagonists, to show how they've changed and how what this means for their journey and their place in the world and how the world has changed by their actions or not changed as the case may be.

So from the hero's journey standpoint, we would call that the return.


So it's the same thing. Yes, it's the thing that happens after the climax to allow the reader to revel in the ramifications of the journey that we just took. Okay.

Yeah. It's it's it's so that the reader has that experience of like, okay, because you're not just defeated, you've defeated the the giant monster. And it lies dead at your feet. Now, what, what does this mean for you, for the journey that the readers taking? That is what the falling action is.

So why is it important? Why? Why would I do that?

So I think there's a couple of reasons why you would do that. The the I guess the most important is first, because the hero and the reader with them have just been on this journey. They've walked together for the whole of the story and they have now reached the end of it. And it is almost like a leaf taking.

It's like it's like a midwestern goodbye. You need to take your time saying it so that people can feel the depth of it and they can put the hero to bed and walk away with the theme of the book, with the lessons of the book cemented in their head and the theme happy that the heroes are in a place where they can leave them.

Yeah. So the way I kind of talk about the return is I'm going to call it the return. It's like the falling action seemed way too pretentious for me. I'm much more simpleminded. And the reason why we call it the return in the Hero's journey is we're returning to the state of perfection. So the reason why I think it's important is we we start off in a state of perfection.

We show the reader what this character lives like, how why they like the life that they live and all of that, the inciting as it comes along and shatters that and the whole reason why the character is moving forward in the story is really just to get back. They go forward to do this, to do that to the other things that they can just be done with this stuff and get back to their life the way it was.

And I just think it's cruel. If you take them forward, make them have to fight for all this stuff to kind of return back to some semblance of normality, some semblance of normality for themselves. And then they get that and you just end and it just goes away like they don't like. You've convinced the reader that the reader is moving forward because they want to go back, but you never allow them to go back.

You never allow them to go, Hey, look, we did finally accomplish it. Now let's let's go back to that time before this inciting incident.

I want to chase a rabbit.

All right.

All right. Now, I don't know. So I am a more change loving person. I believe that society can change for the better and and should. And one of the things that I've been noticing over the past five or six years is that fantasy, conversely, from science fiction, fantasy always seems to have a very traditionalist bent to it. The hero returns home and home is perfect.

You just said it. The state of perfection. He's perfect at home, right? And it's reminded and I'm not saying like, you know, I'm just saying like it's in the wording there. And it reminded me of something which is that in fantasy, so often the solution is we'll kill the bad king and then everything is fine because it's not that a government of nobles is the problem.

No, no, no. We just have to kill the bad people and that's fine. Like, no, the institution of people being born better, it's kind of the rule and there's very little societal change in fantasy. And I wonder if it is because the hero's journey is so prevalent in fantasy, whereas in science fiction there quite often is societal change.

Well, I can't think of any, so let's chase that rabbit. What are what are some examples that you're talking about in fantasy? Where where? Because let me take a step back is when I'm teaching. I mean, we were taught a following access where in the return and I did bring up the state of perfection. So let's go back to that.

So all stories start in only one of two ways. All stories, every single story can start in one or two ways state of perfection or state of imperfection. Yep. And what I tell people is do not lock into the word perfection. It does not mean perfect. That's not what we're talking about here. That's just the term that Joseph Campbell used.

And so that's a term we still use to this day. What it means is if you're starting a state of perfection, it means one. The inciting incident has not happened yet. And two, the world that the character lives in is fine for them. So like, as good as it gets, that movie, when we meet Jack Nicholson's character, he's a racist bigot.

He is horribly lonely and he hates his life. But it starts in a state of perfection because if he lived that life until he died, he would be fine with it. He doesn't want it to change. He's not he's not going, wow, I'm really lonely. I should do something about this. He's like, You know what? I'm really lonely.

But it's okay. Don't mess with me. Yeah.

I get where you're going with this because the perfection at the end could be a different side of.

Perfection where it can never be the state of the same. I mean, like my parents killed, and so now I'm shoved into this thing, but I'm really just trying to get back to my state of perfection. I'm not going to bring my parents back to life. They were killed. The inciting incident. So like Luke Skywalker, you know, his aunt and uncle get killed in the inciting incident.

He's not getting his aunt and uncle back.


But what he's going to get back to some semblance of life where he's not running and gunning and fighting this stupid empire and all this other stuff that's so don't walk into the word perfection. It can never be the same. I mean, look at Lord of the Rings. We go back. Frodo is just irrevocably changed and so is the Shire and a lot of the hobbits, even in The Hobbit.

When Bilbo goes back, things are not the way they were when he left.

But he has the odd thing, right? Look at what happens. The person who has changed in Tolkien's work leaves to go somewhere else.

Not that the knowledge they have brought back enriches and changes their society. Because if there is one man who was a traditionalist, it’s Tolkien right, so so that they don't come back with that knowledge and change their society. No, they realize that they no longer look, they no longer fit their society because of the knowledge that they have gained and they leave.

There is a lot of like a mean obviously like, you know what? One can read a lot into everything, you know, but.

The credits are blue because there is obviously saying.

Exactly. But but it is interesting to look at it. Let's like another popular example, Harry Potter. Right. What changes in the magical society at the end of that saga? Nothing.

Lucius is still a piece of garbage, every, every thing.

Yeah. Every structural thing that created the circumstances for Voldemort to rise to power is still left exactly in place. The the attitude of humans towards non-human magical uses unchanged. It's it's the same things, you know and and I was just I was just struck by it when you said the return because I was like, you know, because I've been on that I've been on a man.

I wish fantasy would have more structural societal change because I feel like so often the message of fantasy is, no, no, it's not the structures fault. If you kill the king, that'll be fine. No, you got to address the problems that allowed this maniac to take control in the first place.

Yeah, but from a pragmatic standpoint, that becomes, it's like, well, then you're just going to write a never ending story because you have to continue down that path. And it's not just the return. But no, I get what you're saying now.

I mean, you can always stop before the revolution takes hold, right? You can lay the seeds of revolution because dear God, afterwards you've stuck with a whole new problem as the revolution falls apart.

But I think. But I think so many returns do that or so many falling actions do that. I mean, look at V for Vendetta. We don't know what the society is going to be like after the fall of the government. We just know that we've taken out the government and the people have realized that they that they were wrong in giving up social freedoms for safety.

Yes, they were safe, but they really weren't because then they allowed for this tyrannical regime to rise. And so they shut that off, knowing that they're going to live in a more chaotic society and be less safe. But everyone is going to be more free to pursue their own lives. Same thing with as good as it gets mean at the end of that.

Yeah, we the you know, Jack Nicholson's character is not a non-racist anti bigot. He's still a racist bigot. He's just not he's on the path. He's on the path. He sees his mistakes. He is working on it. He's actively trying to be a better person. You know, he's actually got someone that probably is going to end up being his wife.

Maybe, you know, they're kind of in that. She's like, you know, no, we're you're going to ask me to be your girlfriend, Like, you're going to do this. I'm going to make you do this even though it's uncomfortable for you. So. But we don't get it.

Did you did you ever watch the movie? Do you ever watch the movie Equilibrium?


Christian Bale It has this like people take these injections to face their emotions. Yeah.

no. I was thinking of the one where he takes the pill and he's super smart.

No, no, no. So this is one like everybody. There's this thing that goes off during it once a day and everybody takes these injections, and they are. It's an amazing movie. It's got a thing called Gun Fu in it, gun cartels, which is just I mean, it was it was obscene and over the top, but it was fantastic.

But it also had like that that, you know, obviously he doesn't just in the government, he removes the entire thing of like suppressing your emotions in order to be a more docile human, in order to, you know. And and the thing is every example we've mentioned where this that kind of change is more on the sci fi side.

Yeah, on the.

Fantasy side it just broke down. Total recall this. I got another one right. That is right.

It's more sci fi than fantasy. Classic fantasy, you know, is much more prone to this kind of traditionalist. It's interesting, right?

Yeah. No, it is. However, and before this podcast, I throw this out and you're like, we've already talked about that. Don't talk about it. So I'm going to talk about something you told me not to talk about because this also made me think about something in The Voice. So I put food on. I'm Abercrombie's first Law series because of the fact that and even though you didn't finish it, the climax happens a third of the way into the to the last book and then the rest of it, he's just screwing over his characters.

However, if instead of looking at like that, thinking about it as an author who went, You know what? I'm going to try to do a longer form following action and really see what can happen. That's actually now interest is making me look at the John Abercrombie stuff in a completely different way of I'm trying to change society, I come back to it and society won't let me change it even though I've done this, you know, this journey.

And that's why the king, you know, the guy who wants to be king becomes king, but becomes a puppet king. The the two people that want to become a couple and romance and they do. They get married and then she murders him in a fit of rage and goes to jail or gets hung for it, I think is what happens.

And like all of these horrible things happen to these characters. So even though I hated that, you know, just thinking about that from a from a fantasy standpoint, I don't know. And I don't know. Joe So I've never met him in my travels. And even though I know a lot of authors, but maybe I'll I'll take a step back and say, maybe Joe was exploring something different that I wasn't even thinking about.

He was a.

Scientist resistant to change. And even if you come back with a knowledge that doesn't mean that you can change it.

Right? So maybe all that journey was not just to show that we're going to screw my characters over, to make the readers feel so that's why I took it. Now, remember, that was pretty great. So I read it as a fan, not as I didn't have any of this. I wasn't teaching writing and, you know, writing professionally and all this other stuff.

So obviously I looked at writing different back then than I do now. But back then it pissed me off as a fan because I'm like, I love these characters and you just take them over. You did that against me, you know, you attacked me. And so I've kept that animosity this whole time until literally until you just said.

Then I was like, I wonder if Joe was exploring this whole return a little bit deeper and what, you know, trying to maybe there's something I mean, I haven't read it since back then, so it's been over 20 years since I read it. Yeah. I'm like, maybe I should go back and reread it just for to see, you know, with that set of eyes to see if he's actually exploring something that as a reader, I just didn't get.

I didn't understand what he was exploring, so I was just pissed that he was screwing over the characters that I loved and I couldn't get past that. Maybe he was actually exploring. I'm not saying he is, you know, mean maybe you can tell us down below. If you're a huge Abercrombie fan, let us know if I'm missing something.

You know, if I did miss something or whatever. So that might be interesting.

It could be. As far as I know, Abercrombie does like to explore deep, dark themes like it is. You know, he does lean on the tragic, dark themes.

Yeah, He's a grim, dark writer.

Yeah. So, yeah, could be. But yeah. So, I.

Mean, I hate Joe over comedy as much as I thought I did.

Yeah. Then today's been an interesting.

Day because that would be interesting to me as a writer. Now, to think about exploring those topics, I'm not going to say that he succeeded. I'm not saying that. I'm saying it's like for the longest time I always had this dream of writing a story where I just killed off main characters for no reason whatsoever. I was like, You know, this is so awesomely, so great.

And then, you know, Martin did it. And I was like, yeah, no, that really does suck for the readers. I'm not doing that. Thanks you, George, for letting me know that. I don't want to do that, even though I thought about doing it. So, yeah, yeah, I don't mind other people. I mean, what do they say? A us smart man learns from their own mistakes.

A wise man learns from other people's mistake.

So yeah, so. So yeah. I mean, but, but it is interesting that so much of fantasy is the more like society doesn't change.


And I sometimes wonder if it is because like if you think of the, the grandfather of fantasy your answer is going to be talking and talking was talking was a traditionalist in the sense he wanted us all to live in forms in the countryside, right? He didn't even like the Industrial Revolution. And if you think of the father of science fiction, your mind hits more towards Frank Herbert than you and Asimov also.

So, you know, hard science fiction.

And I would not consider Herbert the godfather of science fiction.

And both of them drove for change in societies. Both of them were progressive.

I've got one. Yeah, I've got a fantasy one. The Garden to the Flame series.

100%, 100%, he.

An absolute shattered that entire man.

In all the you know what I mean.

Like so it wasn't the characters from that world who then realized their worlds issues and changed it. It was people from our world bringing our moral compass. wait a minute. We got rid of slavery. What are you guys doing? This is evil. And they're like, It's not evil. It's slavery. And so it was it was definitely our society imposing our moral will on them.

100%. But our society did also grow.

You know.

Like we no longer have widespread slavery. You know, You know, yes, you can argue that there are elements, etc., etc.. But I mean, we don't have that kind of institutionalized slavery anymore. We condemn that kind of. But, you know, we are we are making progress.

Although and I haven't fact checked this, so I could be completely wrong on it. And it's not an area that I'm really that interested in, but I have read on the Internet. So it must be true. No, I don't remember where I read it, but that there is more people physically in slavery today than there was at the height of slavery.

I don't. Counting just pure numbers.

I don't think that that is I don't think that that is true and a physical thing. But I mean, I'm talking about.

Years in China and, you know, all the stuff that's happening and.


That's what I heard. And again, I haven't fact checked, I have no idea if it's right or not. This is not a show about that. We don't get into places like that.

I'm not I'm not going to go into research.

It's usually basically you just went optimistic. I said, look at us getting so much better. And then I had to go, No, no, no. We're still pieces of garbage. It's that's really what that was about.

I do think we get like, I would much rather be alive now.

And a hundred years ago than 200 years.

And then. Yeah.

Like, like, you know, and I'll just from a technological standpoint, but I as me as a woman, I would much rather be alive today than even 50 years ago.

Me as a man to not just because of air conditioning. Yeah.

Yeah. So, you know.

It's nice to go and I'm going to go buy some groceries today and not have to go, Where's my spear and where's my, you know.


But it's been killed and eaten while I'm out there trying to get food for myself and my family.

But it's it's also nice to have a vote. It's nice to be able to work. It's nice to be able to open a bank account without, you know. Yeah. Yeah.

So I think we're all in agreement that all of us are happy to be, or at least most. But there is some people out there that are actually it's kind of funny cause my youngest son is like, you know, what are you going to do with your life and all? And he's like, I'm going to save money by a tent and some hunting equipment, and I'm going out and I'm going to live rough in the woods for the rest of my life.



He wants, I mean, that's what he wants right now at 20. What he wants next year at 21 will probably be completely different. Yeah. So. Yeah.

But yeah, so, so anyway, getting back to this, so falling action is basically the, the it's not quite it's not the denouement exactly. But, but it includes the kind of that denouement level. Yeah.

And to get back to the because we think we kind of got off track with that. So when I'm teaching the return I teach them you know what the state of perfection, state of impression is. And just to finish that little thing up. So state of perfection happens before the inciting incident, which allows the reader to get to know the character in the world and what they love.

The only thing starting in a state of imperfection means is that you're starting the story after the inciting incident has happened. So now you still have to do everything that you did. If you had started the story in a state of perfection just now, it becomes a back story. But we still have to show the reader what the character's life was like before the inciting incident.

And we have to make the reader care about this character and what they love and what they hate and all of that. It's just now harder because we have to do it as back story. So as the one I always used for that example is The Shawshank Redemption. When that movie opens up, we're in a car with Andy Frain and he's fondling a pistol and he's got he's drunk, you know, he's got a half drunk bottle of booze.

And we it's visual, so we can't do this in a in a novel. So I'm cheating here, but we get the voiceover of the court case where he's been convicted of murdering his wife and murdering her lover. But we know he did it like we're in the car with him and he's drunk and he's got a pistol. He yeah, he killed her.

Like, there's no doubt in our minds. But that's the inciting. It's the inciting incident of him killing his wife and her lover has already happened when the story starts. So now we have to do that back story, all that, that stuff. So that's the only difference between the state of perfection and state of imperfection is where the inciting incident is.

Most story starting to say to perfection so that we can get to know everything and fall in love with the character. And then the inciting incident happens and then we move to our story. So my point was, if I'm going to, you know, make you fall in love with the character's world and what they love, and then I'm going to be mean and shatter that and you're going to be shattered just as long as that, you know, right along with the character.

And so now you're going to want to get back to that state of perfection, just like that character wants to get back to the state of perfection. So you're going to follow them through all this crappy journey that I'm going to force you to go through. And then, yes, you overcome and that feels good. But then I never give you the ability to kind of succeed, like because just because you win the race.

What if what if, what if you, like, worked your whole life to run this race? You finally get a chance. You run the race, you come across the the finish line and then that's it. You die, you have a heart attack. Everything goes black. I mean, that kind of sucks. It'd be nice to be able to stand up on the winner's podium and actually get the medal and have your friends and family be like, my God, you're so amazing.

I can't believe you did that. That's really what the return is. It's that it's that moment that, yes, we crossed the finish line first. Yes, we want we won the race. But I mean, I'd like to get the medal. I'd like to have my mom hug me and congratulate me for a heart effort. Well done. That's what the return is.

It's just it's just allowing the reader to actually be benefitted by winning the journey. That's it. And that's the way I teach it.

Yeah. Yeah. I tend to lean into, like, the consequences of the change when I think when I'm thinking about it, I think to the intellect, the consequences of the change, the consequences of the plot and so as I said, I am on this kick of like societies must change. The static society thing is nonsense. Even if like change for the worse, they must change.

Like, that's what I'm against.

Democracies must become, must become empires. If bad people win, these things must happen.

I dont want that. I dont want change to be bad.

You know, we if you look at the way the governments developed, right, we were tribal governments, we were theocracies, we were democracies, We were we went back to kingdoms. Then we just started. Then we had a revolution chopped off kings heads. I mean, it's changed the point is, they must if there's not, it is nonsense to say it won't change.

I agree with that. I really would like for us to change and just keep getting better instead of change and then fall back into darkness and then come back into the light and then fall back into darkness and light. We're just because the problem is, is that the people that are caught up in the change when it changes to the darkness, just millions and millions of people die.

And, you know, as a bleeding heart liberal, it just makes me so sad. I hate all the people that have died for no reason. Then for change.

I mean, I would argue that the French nobles who were fed to the guillotine probably felt that they were dying for no reason, but they were dying for democracy.

You know, wasn't talking with them. I was actually talking about we went from prosperity in France to everybody starving and wanting to chop the people. No, no, no. The people got the head chopped off because they're the ones who made everyone starve, like, screw those people chopped their heads off. They all are. Or at least some of them did.

I'm sure some people in there were there was a feeling and a lot of.

People fed to the guillotine is so many of them were innocents.

Yeah. So, you know, things get chopped when whatever I'm talking about the before that I'm talking about to take that that the leadership took society to the point where just hundreds of thousands of people starve to death because that's what you have to get to for society to make that kind of it's not like it's not like you know, the French were like we but first of all, the noble.

Like like I always say, like revolution doesn't come from nowhere. The people have to be driven into a corner before they're willing to embrace revolution.

Or at least feel that they are.

Yeah, they must really feel that they are at the beginning.

Yeah. So. Yeah, but that's, that's what makes my bleeding liberal heart cry is the it's just all the suffering and all of the innocent children that starve to death because children starve before adults. And it just kills me. It just literally, I hate I hate humanity. It's one of the reasons why I like living in my fantasy world.

And also maybe, you know, just to play devil's advocate, it may be why we tend to go, look, if we just kill that bad king everything's great again, because we're just that's what we want. We're fantasy, fulfilling. We don't we don't want to go through the.

We don't want to go through the pain of examining our societal structures and going like, well, actually, maybe this is problematic, right? But maybe the problem is actually the structure of our society and we actually need to go through a very painful change. Yeah, because societal change is never simple.

You know, everyone I don't think a lot of people realize how much of an insult this is, but it's an incredibly horrible insult. The Chinese proverb May you live in interesting times. It's not a good thing. It's very, very that's somebody that's wishing you suffering pain and death. That's that's because that's interesting times.


So becomes an unfortunately I feel like the first 40 years of my life we didn't live in interesting times and I feel like we're starting to live in very interesting times now anyway. I don't want to. I want to be boring. I like boring.

I would love to be boring, but we have a we have a very not boring neighbor to our east.

So know now I get it. I get it. I definitely get it. But no, that's I think that might be a devil's advocate kind of side for that is that we just want a fantasy fulfilled. You know that's why we I mean that I truly believe and I try I teach this to all the people that come to me.

Your job job is to be a vehicle for other people to fantasy fulfill inside of. Yeah, like that's what a storyteller's job is. We are here to allow them to escape their reality. And then it just depends on what what you're attracted to.

But we still want them to walk away with less and to make them better people, Right?

That's our job.


But what they want from us, I mean, they don't come to us and go, You know what? I might be a little racist, So could you. Could you take me on a lesson to show me that being a little racist is bad? That's not what they're here for. They're not coming to us for that. We're going to do that because that's our job.

Yeah, but they're coming to us going. I just want to escape my reality. Yeah. 100% on for like.

100%. And we do need to be cognizant of that. But we still we still need to like I'm not saying every book has to end with massive societal change. Obviously, that's also not realistic. Like, come on now. I'm just saying there's very few that in fantasy specifically deal with societal change.

And you know, in the 15 minutes that I've spent time thinking about it, I can already see that that's a very difficult, bigger product. And I said, that's what took me back to Joe Abercrombie with like, maybe because obviously he was on this writing road way before me because he was a professional author well before I was even thinking about this.

So maybe that is the and if I ever get the chance to sit down with him, I'm definitely going to ask that question. That is something I'm going to talk to him about. So, Joe, if you're listening, give me a call. But yeah, I mean, it'll be an interesting it's an interesting thing. Yeah, but that's in a nutshell when I'm kind of answered, that's the thousand foot view of me teaching what the return is and why it's important.

Because I do think it's important. You just took them on this big journey and you let them cross the finish line. You should. And, and I just learned that from where I would go, because movies are bad at this. Books are not normally bad at this. I mean, we can go through all these things. We talk about Harry Potter.

We talked about Lord of the Rings.

We talked about famously long falling action, famously.

Even even Star Wars.


His Star Wars, The New Hope. The first one does what exactly? What? I said they pop their star and then they stand on the podium and they get metal. They literally just they just have the metal ceremony and that's it. And even that is still good enough. Yeah. A lot of movies will end with the Death Star going, yeah.

And then the credits start rolling and it's like, you don't get any chance to do anything. You don't know.

Any closure to use a modern word. You don't get any closure on the story.

Yeah, yeah, you win. But what does that mean now? What does it mean for you now? I think there's a flipside to that. I think because like the Genesis saga, none of the books have falling. What's it called? Falling action. None of them have returned story.

So it hasn't reached an end.

Right? Right.

So I put in falling action in the first book of sandwiched in Hidden Blade. And the reason why was because when I wrote Hidden Blade originally, I was like, I am not 100% sure I have the gumption for the entirety of the saga, so I'm going to give the reader a conclusion at the end of it. I'm going to leave them at a place where they don't feel like, my God, I need the next book because I don't want to leave them hanging.

Then it turns out that I'm actually fine. And now I've written, you know, and the others, none of the other books have that fallen action because they're all follow on from each other.

Right? They're one contiguous story as opposed to like the Harry Potter series, where every single Harry Potter series has a return because every single one has one problem that we're going to deal with. We're going to resolve that problem, and then we're going to see how resolving that problem has affected the world around Harry and changed Harry. And we're going to get that moment to revel in that, in that return, and then we're done.

You literally could be finished and you don't have to read the next one. And then, you know, if you do, we're going to resolve that one and all that. And there's nothing wrong with that. There's, you know, like, you know, like what you just said you wanted to have a standalone books that you basically had an out, you know, hey, do I really I don't know if I'm right.

The next book, I don't know if I'm interested in it. I don't know if it's going to be successful or I don't know, whatever whatever your reasons were, it could be a million different things. So you gave that return, which gives a more satisfying ending for the audience. Yeah, Farmers was my ninth novel that I wrote. It was my first that was ever professionally published, but it was the ninth that I had written.

And so when I sat down and started plotting out the Genesis saga, I knew it was a five novel saga. I wanted it out. I know where I'm going, you know, I've got it all lined out. And so I don't have a falling action at the end of that book. It just ends. It ends now. Now, when you do that, understand, it is vital, important that you do have the crossing of finish lines.

You just don't need to do the what now? How does that affect the world around them and them? So everyone crosses the finish line. There's five characters in the book and all five of them cross the finish line at the end of the book in their last chapters. But that's all you get. They just cross the finish line and then you're like, Okay, but what?

Then? That's what gives you that desire, because I don't have hard looks. There's one that has a hook, none of the others have a hook. All the rest of them are just crossing of the finish line. But it's still even that without and I don't mean hook. They all have hooks. Sorry. Yep. Doesn't have a cliffhanger. Yes, that's the word I meant to use.

Only one has a cliffhanger and it's the one that's actually the last last chapter of the book. So not only is it, you know, the one with the cliffhanger, but I put it last because I wanted the last chapter to have the cliffhanger. Why didn't I do the others to have a cliffhanger? First of all, the book wasn't done yet, so that's just mean.

But also, I knew that you didn't need it, like just crossing the finish line and then fading the black. The audience still has that. Okay, what that mean? What does that do? How does that affect things? Yeah, they beat the bad or they, you know, whatever. So you still have to cross the finish line. Now you, you talk about one thing that, that I think fits well with this, where you were reading something and you were dragged all the way to this big climactic battle and you were so excited about the battle.

And then you get there and and the last chapter is we cross the hill or we cross the hill, and there's the big battle we're about to have. Yeah. End of the book. Yeah. And you were like, Snap.

I actually didn't read the book that follows on from that. I was like, You leave me on that kind of cliffhanger. I no longer trust you. And I'm not saying that every reader is me. I don't know how many readers you'll lose with that kind of cliffhanger, but that author certainly lost me.

Yeah. So I do believe that you have to cross the finish line.


What I do is I just didn't. That's it. And then the next book, you get new problems, new things, and you cross the finish line. And the next book, new things, new problems. You cross the finish line, but each one builds on the last and it gets bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger.

If I think about Magic fall, which is the book that we wrote together, that you should all read links in the description and.

Buying copies from Starving Rider studio icon signed by me and Marie when we were together.


Got a warehouse full.

You should totally buy some signed copies. You can't get my signature very easily. I'm in Finland.

Yeah, And if you're in Finland, well, you're going to pay a lot for shipping. But you can't get my speech, So.

So there they had that defeated the. The bad guy. And literally the falling action is just them getting everything and fleet. That's it. There's no celebrating in the victory. There's no return to the city. Which is what? Because that's where all of their motivation is. You know, Lauren's father, Boris mother, not mother or sister, like all of these things are in the city.

That's where their motivation is. That was if we were writing a standalone novel, they'd return to the city.

Because we have loose threads that we have to tie up.


So that's interesting. So when we started this and the topic is going to be the falling action, I really don't use that term. And so that's why, you know, to me it's the same thing as the return, whatever What you just said is really interesting because from a from a structural hero's journey standpoint, Magic fall does not have a return.

Yes. However, it does have a falling action. We do have a moment where we allow the readers to catch their breath. We do. We do have that. We crossed the finish line and then we have another chapter where the readers get to kind of have that dip in the tension. And, hey, look, we survived this. Let's take a moment to to to kind of stew in that revelation and and have this moment.

And it's a really good scene between Bury and and layron and, you know, the flying cat and all of that and it's you know, he gets the little Land Rover thing in like it's a nice little scene and it lets, you know, it gives the reader that moment to just enjoy the win. Yeah, I would never call that a return, though, from a hero's journey structure standpoint.

No, because it's not. But it is appalling action. So there it is.

And I never difference until that moment. The whole time I've been thinking, why are we calling it a falling action? It's just a return. It's just a return that shows me that it's not. It's actually a little different than than the return.

Well, I would say that the return is always falling action, like the return is is within falling action. But falling action is not necessarily the return.


Yeah. Because you can have the falling action without the actual return of the hero's journey.

Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? Okay, that's learning all the time.

But no.

So why you should share this podcast and like it and subscribe to it?

Yes, because we learn stuff all the time.

Every episode. Now that's really cool.

So let's talk a little bit about, I guess, some of the examples of falling action, so which we've talked about Lord of the Rings, which which has a very long falling action. It's the Aragorn returning to the City Minister, Earth and in the Houses of Healing and and then the Hobbits returning to the shore here and kicking out I forget who taken over the shire.

Some of the.

Orcs were there.

Yeah, but it was led by some things. Some person.


Anyway, and then getting on the great ships and going to the west and all of that goes. Yeah. And Sam and Rosie marrying now.


Which was very pretty. So that is a very, very long section and I think it was so long because Tolkien wanted to show where every character finally ends up and really put them to bed for the reader.

Yeah, let's contrast that with the last book of Harry Potter.

Yeah. So last book of Harry Potter, The Deathly Hallows is a book like.

Well, she does all of those same things. It's just that she does them kind of as this this tally.

Yeah. This and she literally she literally goes okay so so you've you've had the final climactic battle. People have died. That stuff's happened in your things. And then we jump to I don't know, I think it's ten years later, isn't it?

Isn't it? If I remember because I only read it once and when it came out, it was a long time ago. But isn't it Harry and Jennie now married and they're dropping their kid off to the train?

Yeah, that's correct. Yeah. She jumps from. You've literally just had the climactic battle. No, there's no falling action here. She goes from there to Epilog. Yeah. So I would say that yeah. I would say doesn't have falling action. It has an epilog that. Yeah. That tells you what the end is.

To me it felt more like and I don't know Rowling I don't have any way of verifying this. You can. I know there's a lot of hardcore Harry Potter fans out there. If you can rip it apart in the comments below, it's fine. Yeah. To me it felt like a move of an author who's like, I am so sick of writing this.

I'm going to write a chapter that makes sure that no one asks me to write another chapter. From here, I'm going to just put the definitive This is done, don't bother me ever again. I now have more money than God. I don't need to do this anymore. Leave me alone.

I also got strong like I'm. I'm so over this this series from from that loss.

That was kind of an insult as a fan because again, I read that before Drake and I don't know, just to me it felt like a kind of almost a slap in the face. Like, I know you took this journey and I know you love all this stuff and I know you're would be really excited for me to continue it, but screw you, I'm done.

Leave me alone. Get off my lawn.

It. It. It. Yeah, I agree. Like the end of Harry Potter was very. It was very like for the journey I'd been on. And, I mean, I like kids who read, you know, kids today, like, Listen to me, kids today. Kids today were like, they don't know what that phenomena was like because it was pre-Internet, right? So we like book a things book for a book.

Five came out. There was no concept of ebooks yet, and we didn't have smartphones. So I had ordered a physical copy and it was a worldwide release. All the stores across the world opened at the same time at I think it was green which midnight or something like that. That all opened and we're allowed to start selling Harry Potter things will worldwide events.

I was standing in a queue in the middle of the night to pick up my copy of Harry Potter.

Me too. Yeah.

Right. And I like I picked it up. I went home and I read it that night.

Like pretty sure was the fourth book when that finally exploded and became the phenomenon was.

Yeah. And and it we'd been on this incredible journey with it. It had been a worldwide cultural phenomenon. And then we hit the last book and it's just like, okay, we've beaten Voldemort, I'm done with you now.

It's like, Hello, What are the rings felt like they were paying homage to us, the fans of Let me let me put this to bed. Let me give you time. Let me let me reward you for this harrowing adventure you just took. Here is your payment reader and but, I mean, even the whole last book kind of smelt like, I'm so tired of writing.

I just don't feel like Rowling's book.

Yes. Yeah, Yeah. The last book of Harry Potter. I was like, She's just doing this to get it done.

Like it's what it felt like. Yeah. And we're not digging on Harry Potter guys. We're both obviously huge fans. We literally both just said we were standing in line waiting for our copies. But it just even though I enjoyed the last book, it just had a lingering odor of I just don't want to do this anymore. And so that shows in the writing.

And then the ending of it is what really kind of capped it off for me of, this is her just telling me to leave her alone.

Whereas yeah, whereas me. Yeah. And were Tolkien was he very, very gently took you by the hand and loud you to see the characters through and like showed you everything that has happened and puts the whole thing to bed. It's it, it makes you feel appreciate it as.

And again, even though I might be looking at the Abercrombie stuff a little different now, it is why I hated the ending of all my comedy and so many people do is because he was like, so you just took this journey. Now let me kick you in the teeth just and then when you fall down, I'm going to stomp your head.

And then, you know, when you curl up in a ball to protect yourself, I'm going to just keep kicking you anyway. Like, so it felt like an attack on the author. So, I mean, that gives you three different things. One, that feels like an author that's actually thanking you for taking this journey with them. One that's telling you, look, I don't care, just go away, I'm done.

And then the other it's like, yeah, we're not done yet because I'm going to abuse you now.

So why is the falling action, the return so important? Because it really is kind of the exclamation point at the end of your sentence.

it's the taste that you will leave a reader with. Now, I'm a wine drinker. I know you don't really drink, but I'm a wine drinker. And wine has got a thing called the aftertaste. And so when you drink a really good mouthful of wine, it leaves a feeling in your mouth and a taste that lingers on your tongue.

And the falling action is like that. It is the it is the taste you're leaving in your reader's mouth with. They go. I enjoyed drinking down that author's cup of wine. I think that I could have another one of those cups. They were great. They left me feeling good.

Or in John Brumby space. I It's a really bitter flavor. I don't think I'm reading anything and unfortunately I've never read any. I've read pieces of some of his stuff. I know he's a fantastic writer, but I just still have that lingering taste from there.

Are there are people in this world who'd really like very, very dry wine.

Yeah, there's a fan base for everybody that.

So yeah,

Do we want to run through the questions?


That our producer and I didn't mention our name last time because we never even talked about it, but her name is Monique. She is kind of the reason why we're a little bit more organized. We chase a lot of rabbits today, but we're at least a little bit more organized. And and the thumbnail changes and the topic changes and all of that Monique has done a great job of of helping us.

Yeah. Get this in a much better state.

so we had talk about what is it why is it important and why should it be included. I think we've we've covered that. It's it's that that gift to the fans that closure they know that the story is over. They feel good about it. They've had time to consume it.

Yeah. Pricing for the falling action should be slower. You've had the climactic moment. You want to slow it down, you know, obviously like completely, but you want to you want to turn a gentler and slow it down and really give the reader time to appreciate the moment.

Here's the thing that that I think a lot of writers miss. It's not about writing fast or writing slow. It's about how much loyalty have you earned. That's why me and Marie are so hell bent on, you know, saying no flashbacks in your opening chapter, no info dumping in your opening chapter because you've earned nothing. Yeah. So you.

You're still in the I need to impress you because you're still on the date. You know that that first date phase where it's like I'm wearing my best suit and I'm, I've got my, my beard and hair really well and I brush my teeth really good. And I put on some nice cologne as opposed to being married 23 years where you're like, Yeah, let's go out to dinner.

Like, you know, I don't stink that bad. so by the time you get past that climax, you've earned your loyalty, your readers loyalty. They love the story. They've been with you all the time. They care about the characters, they're there, and now they just want to enjoy the afterglow, you know? The buffing has finished, you know, We've already done all the sweating and all of that.

And now you know what? I just want to lay here. I want to lay here with you. I want to feel you, you know, pressed up against me. I you know, we don't have to talk.

We just told you this is going to come back to a boy author and a girl author.

Yeah. I mean, literally the thing right before this is called the climax. So whatd you expect this happens after the climax. We set. So, yeah, I mean, you've earned it. So you don't has to. Now, does that mean it can just be dry and boring and crappy. No, that's not what I'm saying at all.

Yeah, it must have. There must still be things that the scenes accomplish. There must still be a reason to continue a little bit of a plot thread, something to pull me on, you know, All of that must still be there, but gentler, no longer with the urgency building up or done.

Which it's now just it's post coitus and we're going to just line each other's arms and just be content and happy and just that's I think that's the importance from and that's why the pacing and that's throughout the entire thing. I mean, you know, I talked about last night, I kind of gave a little mini class and we went through some of my chapters and why I do them.

So like just look at this opening of of my first book. So our very first chapter is a farm Boy. The only thing that happens in it, he wakes up, he goes downstairs, eats breakfast, he goes to work. That's it. That's all. It happens now. It still has everything that we talk about here, still very engaging, very exciting, and it pulls you through it.

There's tons of open questions you want to drive, but it is still just a farm boy waking up, going downstairs, eating breakfast and going to work. That's it. But it's not chapter one. It's chapter two. It's his first chapter. So what is chapter one? Chapter one? Nothing happens in either sort of, but a lot happens and it's this big, brutal, brutish fighter monster dude that you meet and it's very aggressive and and everyone who gets at the end of that one is just like, you know, strap me in, I'm there.

You've got me hook, line and sinker. What it allows me to do is now go, okay. All right. You're all hyped up. Now, let's slow it down a little bit because I need to now world because I don't do any worldbuilding in that first one. You know, that's one of the reasons why it is so exciting and all of that, because now I'm like, okay, all right, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool.

You're there. I've earned a little bit of loyalty. Now let's slow it down a little bit. And so you don't notice it because you're there now. I've got five characters introduced and I've only done two. I could roll into the third character, but I don't. I cheat and I go back to the line to the big beast, dude.

And his next chapter is this massive, gory, exciting fight scene, like four 5000 words. You were literally fighting for your life. It starts in the middle of a fight and it ends with it all over. And so, you know, I give you this little moment of, okay, I've earned some loyalty. So let me worldbuilding limit, give me a little time.

It's going to be all this. And then we just chat. And so what's the next chapter? We're with one of the other characters and we learn how magic works. But you're fine because you just came off this huge high of that scene. So now I can slow it down and go, All right, all right. So and then what's next?

Well, we introduced another character in the fourth and the fifth chapter at that point, but he's in the stands at the end of the fight. And then something also exciting happens to him as he's leaving the Coliseum. So exciting chapter, a little bit slower, exciting, exciting chapter. The slower and then exciting chapter, but not as exciting, obviously, as the actual fight scene.

Yeah. And by the end of those five chapters, if fantasy is your thing, more than likely than not, I own you. I you will stay. You're just so excited because I did my job of worldbuilding. You now know the world, You understand the culture, you understand, and that's all boring. But I gave it to you in a very palatable way.

But I also just threaded through this massive, exciting, you know.

I dispute worldbuilding is boring allegations.

Well, thank you. I appreciate that. And a lot of that is coming from you as well, because you are so good at worldbuilding. What I mean by that is, no, you're right. My worldbuilding is not boring, or at least it definitely isn't any more. Not going to say it wasn't 20 years ago, but the point is, it's still when you compare the chapters to each other.

Yeah. The second chapter is nowhere near the first and third chapter. Fourth chapter is nowhere near the first and fourth chapter are a third chapter, and the fifth chapter is definitely on par with the first chapter, but not on par with the third chapter. And my point is those are rolled out that way. And those scenes were developed that way for very specific reasons and also to make sure that I never allowed my reader, you know, so many fantasy books start with the first three or four chapters of I'm a farm Boy and I'm on the farm and I'm doing this stuff.

And and yeah, it's slowly rising.

But so that is boring. And I agree with you. But you know, it's even worse. Let me start a fantasy book with a prolog of how the world started.

It's the five chapters of Encyclopedia.

I mean, now that those are the books I read in the eighties and that please don't do that. That writing style was popular in the eighties, but even then was boring.

I don't think it was popular in the eighties. I think it was the only thing that existed in the eighties.

80 What? Boring. It was.

Boring. If all we have to eat are cranberries. No. Then they're. They're good. They're cranberries. But like, I can't even imagine eating cranberries for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yes. But if it's all you have.

Then that's what you eat. Yeah.

Got Aesop. No, I don't think it was popular. I just think that the guys that because you got to remember fantasy wasn't really it was almost a forced genre because it was the publishing industry because the publishing she hated fantasy It was a child immature thing. I mean, so much so that McCaffrey, who wrote Dragon Riders of Pern, if you said, Man, I really love your fantasy series, she would slap you.

She's not like fantasy. And it's like.

It. There is no way that you could classify this is science fiction.

You have a dragon on your cover that is not. But she would she know.

And I know. I know why. I know why she claimed that because her dragons were genetically engineered natural creatures like this science explanation for all of it. And I was like, Sure, sure. But that doesn't change the fact that you you have people riding on dragons and that is not science fiction.

And fighting with swords and.

Lances, fighting with swords on a single plot. I'm sorry, it's not science fiction.

Yeah, well, and again, the big reason was there was the stigmatism of time, so. Yeah. So you got to understand the stigma, and then you have the publishing industry because fans there reading Lord of the Rings or reading, you know, the CONAN books, the Pulp Fiction stuff at the time. And they're like, Man, does anybody want to write?

I mean, literally, Terry Brooks was kind of a mediocre mystery writer. Yeah. And he was like, Well, I'll give it a shot. And so, like, his publisher came to him and said, Hey, do you think you can write this crazy thing called fantasy? Because we think people are buying it? And he's like, Yeah, sure, whatever. I'm not making a huge living off of what I'm doing now, so sure, let me try it like it was.

And that's why they're trope because these aren't, you know, you take me and you and Sanderson and Jordan and and Joel Rosenberg obviously you take our generation of writers and a little bit for us we were fans of fantasy. Yeah and so we grew up on the tropes and now we want to push that. We want to change that.

We want to do something different. You take a David Eddings or a Terry Brooks or whatever, when they first got into and I'm like I say, they aren't fans now, obviously, but when they first got into it, there really wasn't a fandom. So they were like, Yeah, whatever. I'll, I'll if you're going to pay me, I'll, I'll do that.

Sure. So, you know, what are they going to what are they going to do? Of course they're going to be more trope because they're going to go, well, what is out there? Okay, Lord of the Rings, let me read it. Okay. Well, I guess this is what they're looking for. So let me just do it. That's why the Bulgarian, it was like, it's just the Lord of the Rings clone.

Yeah, because David Eddings was not what you would. He didn't. There was no fandom to come from now. So, you know, it's but, but now we, we, it's first of all it's a huge genre fan base and we don't need to do that. Yeah. So you know that's I don't even know why we got off on this rabbit.

I'm looking at our list. Go. And how did we get here anyway?

So falling action. You should have it. How long as how long is falling action? I don't know. It can be anything.

It can.

Depend. It depends on where you are in the series. Because like Magic Fall, we had literally a couple of pages talking at the end of his saga, had a massive, you know, many, many, many chapters.

Another thing that a lot of people don't know is that was actually just one novel. There was no three novels. It's just that when he turned it in, the printer was like, I don't have the technology to print this in one book. It doesn't exist. And so the publisher decided where to break it. And three books. Yeah. So of course it wouldn't have following action, you know, anywhere in the world, because it was literally to Tolkien one novel.

Yeah, but yeah, so, so its length depends, you know, kind of on how you approach it and so on. And then we've spoken about the pacing, we've done the example, the falling action starts off your climax. Yeah. Talking points.

Yep. Hopefully this gives you guys a really good understanding of falling action if you haven't thought about it. And again, until Monique sent us this, I, I had heard the term falling action, but I didn't literally since I never kind of studied, I was just thinking that it was just falling action somewhere during the story. And maybe it was the sagging middle that we're going to be talking about or whatever.

Again, I come out of these things kind of blind. So it is what it is. But, you know, now that we understand what it is, you understand why it's important. You understand that you're you're doing your readers an injustice. If you don't give them some benefit, some rewards, some, you know, moment to consume, you know, to just kind of to have that post-coital bliss.

Yeah. That cuddling phase. Yeah. So yeah. So hopefully you'll now look at your stories and go, okay, I do, I do owe it to my readers to give them something. So hopefully that will help you guys out.

Yeah. And I think that that is a good note on which to end this episode.

See you next time.

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