Thursday, September 19th, 2019

And in the End…

And so we come to the last of my series of posts based on Jane Yolen’s list of “10 Words Every Picture Book Author Must Know.”  Resolution… a fitting word to end the series with! Thank you, Jane, for providing us with such thought-provoking bounty (and two months worth of fodder for blog posts!)

Resolution shares its root with “resolve,” and in literary terms, it means the point within the story when the central conflict is worked out, or the problem is solved. Perhaps not exactly how the protagonist intended or hoped, but solved nonetheless, and in such a way that the hero has learned something and has changed or grown in the process.

The best resolutions satisfy a need created at the beginning of the book.  This needn’t be happy – but it should feel both earned and inevitable, which is different from predictable.  Rather than anticipating how the book will end, the reader should be pleasantly surprised, yet also feel “But of course it had to end that way!”  And picture book endings must also be clear, as opposed to implied or left open; young readers may have difficulty choosing between possible outcomes.

Let’s look at an example. In the beginning of Where the Wild Things Are, Max’s mother is angry with him, and sends him to bed without any supper.  The resolution occurs when Max decides, after a long ‘journey’ indulging in all his wild fantasies, to return home where “someone loves him best of all,” and discovers his dinner waiting for him. There’s that memorable last line: “And it was still hot.”

From this the reader understands that Max has been forgiven.  The need established at the beginning of the book – for Max to know that he is still loved, and lovable – has been met.  His problem – going to bed without supper – has been solved.  But note that his Mother is not calling him to dinner at the family table.  He has, after all, been naughty.  Yet we worry for a child who goes to bed without any supper, so dinner in his room feels both earned and satisfying (at least, by the parenting standards of Maurice Sendak’s era!)  And the fact that it’s still hot tells us that it wasn’t such a long journey after all. In fact, maybe just as short as a dream.


4 Responses to “And in the End…”
  1. Joanna says:

    Well, this felt like a very satisfactory way to end the series. Earned and inevitable, but not predictable is a very helpful take on concluding picture books. I have been able to challenge my present MS with every one of these posts. Once again, thank you so much, Emma, for the time you have taken to expand on these ten topics. Oh that I could come up with such cracking, last lines as “And it was still hot.”

  2. Beth says:

    In each of these posts there has been something that has particularly stood out for me. In the case of this post, it was the same thing that caught Joanna’s attention — “earned and inevitable, which is different from predictable”. I so appreciate the nudge to see the difference between inevitable and predictable.

    I am sorry to see this series end — in the entire series you have given us so much to think about and to work on. Thank you, Emma!

    Keep the blog posts coming! I learn so much from them.

  3. Patricia T. says:

    I am so glad that you spent two months expanding on Jane Yolen’s “10 Words Every Picture Book Author Must Know.” Each one has been so helpful! I found in my first manscript the resolution came easily and was earned. My second needs a little bit of work, but I like my last sentenses.

    Agree with Beth and Joanna — I hate to see this series end. You did such a great job fleshing out Jane’s discussion with such ease.


  4. Diane says:

    Gosh! and to think Emma, “Where the Wild things Are”, was such a difficult story to get my head around when I was taking the course. It tells us so much and a lovely ending to. This has been such a learning tool for me and like Beth, Joanna and Patricia I am sorry to see it end. I hope you can send us down another path of creative writing with you, in future posts. Will look forward with interest, thankyou Emma.

Leave Your Comment

I want to hear from you...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!