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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Do all fantasy stories HAVE to end with a huge battle?

   
Author Topic: Do all fantasy stories HAVE to end with a huge battle?
Collin
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I'm not talking about when a writer writes only one book alone, I'm talking about when they write a series. It seems that there's always a big battle in the end of each book. Would it not be acceptable to have several battles throughout the book and to leave the reader hanging at the end, just thinking about when the next book comes out?
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rstegman
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The basic nature of stories is to have a crisis, then a solution, and relief. Then another larger, crisis, then relief.

What they are after with the big battle, is to have a major crisis at the end where there is no way the hero can survive, he has a solution, and then one can tie up the end.

Just has having a super battle to allow them to get close enough to the bad guy to finish him off, is common to stories, just like having the bad guy thought to be dead, then suddenly gets up so the hero who's guard is down, has to finish it off a last time.

It just depends on what the story is designed to do.
One could, of course, have the hero play chess with the evil one as the final battle, but it would not be as exciting.
One thing with the final battles is that the bad guy always has more soldiers, more experienced and better trained than the hero is able to accumulate.


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BenM
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quote:
I'm talking about when they write a series. It seems that there's always a big battle in the end of each book.

No, they don't always do it.

quote:
Would it not be acceptable to have several battles throughout the book

Think of how battle scenes in your favourite books serve to escalate dramatic tension in the book. The stakes are usually raised with each conflict. This serves to gradually escalate tension towards the end - where the author provides a final dramatic climax and relief to the reader so they have an enjoyable reading experience.

There are a great many ways to raise the stakes and create tension and conflict in a fantasy novel. With some wide reading you'll pick up on those devices and be better able to use them to great effect in your own writing.

quote:
and to leave the reader hanging at the end, just thinking about when the next book comes out?

Readers get frustrated by books that leave readers hanging, critics warn them of it, and no one buys the book until the series is written (which also makes it less popular as a series), so publishers will shy away from these types of endings.

A series will generally finish several important plotlines, so that the reader receives satisfaction from those being properly closed in the method described above. One or more plotlines will be left open, however, so that they can be continued in the next book. The reader is usually aware of what these are, but given that the 'immediate' problems of the finished plotlines have indeed been resolved, they're satisfied.


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Meredith
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I wouldn't end by leaving the reader hanging. Very frustrating. However, you can leave some things unresolved for the next book, if you're careful about it.

This was one of my major problems with the trilogy I'm working on. I had to figure out a conflict I could resolve satisfactorily in Book Two. Book One wasn't a problem. Neither is Book Three. But to make the three books each stand alone, Book Two needed a significant enough conflict that could be resolved in that book. That took awhile to figure out.

I don't think all fantasy novels have to have a battle at all. They do have to have a rising conflict and a resolution of that conflict. But it doesn't necessarily have to be a battle. It can be a personal conflict between two or a few people. It can be an internal conflict. It can even be a conflict of one or a few people against some impersonal form of magic. There have to be stakes that increase as the conflict progresses. And the main conflict of the book has to be resolved some way.

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited April 06, 2009).]


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Robert Nowall
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Tolkien didn't..."The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" both went on a pretty good way after their murthering big battles...so I assume what's good for Tolkien is good for others.
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dee_boncci
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No, you don't have to end with a battle. Yes, you can have as many battles as you want.

You can leave a reader "hanging" at the end, but I wouldn't recommend it--it annoys many of us. The most effective way to end in the midst of a series is to have each volume tell a complete story that is resolved withing the volume while discreetly sowing seeds for the continuation.

I've recently read Robin Hobbs's Farseer books, and she does an excellent job of giving each volume a satisfactory conclusion while at the same time paving the way for the next story.


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MartinV
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I guess a battle is a good climax because it't huge and bombastic and it needs a lot of preparation which can be implemented in the twist of the story. And the situation is very simple to dscribe after a battle - a lot of destruction and death (useful for getting rid of side characters) but the hero has shown his worth (so did the anti-hero, for that matter).

So, yes. A big battle is the simplest way to make a conflict reach gigantic proportions and for it to have an outcome without causing too much effort from the writer. Basically, it's uncreative, but done so many times readers are used to it.


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Zero
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Unless you're target audience is Rambo die-hards, you may find battles for the sake of battles will bore and turn away many readers. But actions that draw us in emotionally, the kind that are critical to the characters we love and events we worry ove(especially if they're not 100% predictable) may do the opposite and suck us in.

But when a writer (Paolini, etc) follows a formula "wrap up story with massive battle---jumping in from nowehre---where the good guys face overwhe,ing odds but prevail anyway... and these losses somehow don't carry over to the next book..." this kind of thing isn't such a hit, one would think.


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Natej11
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Not to derail this topic either, but if anyone wants to get together for some serious Paolini bashing I'm in ^^.

Don't you just hate it how some mediocre talent can get massive attention, while truly skilled writers are thrust into the background with just a small loyal fan base.


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TaleSpinner
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Does every book in a series have to finish with a battle? Yes, sorta.

Is it okay to leave the reader hanging at the end? No, not if we want the reader to read the next book.

Why?

Every book in a series, in my opinion, should be a story in its own right, the series connected by a broader story arc. Every story -- every book -- should revolve around a central conflict, and should end by resolving the conflict, so some kind of final battle is inevitable.

If the characters choose to fight each other with armies, navies or air forces then yes, the final resolution will likely be a climactic battle.

If the characters fight using their individual strengths, then there will be a final fight between MCs to resolve the conflict -- for example, James Bond stories always end this way even though the military are sometimes involved in the conflict. Superman and Spiderman, too, tend to end with a fight amongst just a few superbeings.

Another example: in Twister, the main antagonist is the F5 twister, and the movie climaxes with a big "battle" between MC and his girl, and the tornado.

In a series (like Fleming's Bond books) reader is drawn to the next book by the strength of characterization, world building, plotting and action, and thus some confidence that this author always delivers a good read with a satisfying ending.

If we leave the reader hanging (and some series books do) there is a risk that the reader will wonder if the next book, also, will leave her hanging ... and the next, and the next ... Me, I get annoyed if I'm left hanging and add that writer to my list of "never read again" writers.

I think LOTR is an exception to this (and there are probably others) because it's really one huge story, divided into several volumes to make it possible to lift the darn thing.


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Zero
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I think there needs to be a conflict toward the end that resolves everything, but I don't limit it to just sword-and-shield.
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annepin
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GRR Martin is an exception as well--all of his books end on cliff hangers. If you can pull it off it seems to work really well. But there's got to be a lot to draw the reader in.
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extrinsic
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All stories have to resolve with a catastrophe or a eucatastrophe, which is a final crisis that causes a reversal of fortune for the protagonist. A story is not complete unless there's a reversal of fortune from the conditions at the beginning of a story, good to bad, catastrophe, or bad to good, eucatastrophe. Perhaps a sword and sorcery or swashbuckler or military science fiction story will have to end with swordplay. But no, fantasy stories by and large don't have to end with a battle. In fact, most don't. Anymore, fewer and fewer published fantasy stories do. Begin with the sword, end with the sword, though, is essential to maintaining plot unity.
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Robert Nowall
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"If you show a gun on stage, you have to fire it." Rule-of-thumb for playwrights, but it applies here, too.
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Zero
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In Jurassic Park they're always running around with that spas-12-looking shotgun prop but they never fire it.

[This message has been edited by Zero (edited April 09, 2009).]


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Ben Trovato
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Limyaael wrote a rather good rant on this very subject.

http://limyaael.insanejournal.com/139111.html


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pixydust
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I vote no. Besides writing a battle scene is just ridiculously arduous. Blah. :P
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