And they all lived happily ever after. Not always, unless it’s a romantic suspense story. The denouement refers to the resolution of the complications in fiction, generally done in a final chapter or in an epilogue. Most mystery stories have the part near the end where all the little pieces of the puzzle are explained and the mystery is resolved. Almost all Sherlock Holmes stories are written this way. The denouement is the closing chapter or scene where Holmes explains to Watson or the police exactly how he figured out who the culprit was and how he came to those conclusions. The denouement unravels the mystery and provides any necessary pieces of missing information.
The denouement generally follows the climax, except in mystery novels in which the denouement and the climax may occur at the same time. The denouement is different from the climax. The climax is when the guy gets the girl or the car chase that catches the villain. The denouement is after the climax where things get clarified and all the loose ends are tied up.
In Dickens’ Great Expectations the unveiling is when Pip discovers that the escaped convict he befriended turns out to be his benefactor.
Romeo and Juliet tells the classic tragic tale of two young star-crossed lovers. Their relationship is doomed from the start because of their families’ hatred of each other. We all know how the tragedy ends. Romeo thinks Juliet is dead and kills himself. But Juliet was not really dead, just faking her death from her family. However, when she awakes and sees that Romeo has killed himself, she stabs herself to death as well. Those events are the climax of the story. However, the denouement occurs afterwards, when the Montagues and the Capulets are all at the tomb and see that their beloved children have both committed suicide. The heads of the family know that their bitter feud must end. Lord Montague and Lord Capulet agree to stop their rivalry to avoid any further tragedy from occurring.
Not every story will have a denouement. This is especially true if a story ends without all questions being answered. This is called an open ending and can possibly lead to a sequel. It can also be used when the author just wants to let the readers have their own interpretation of the conclusion. In my Shakespeare in the Vineyard mystery series, Cait Pepper is busy managing the Shakespeare Festival and the vineyard she inherited, while at the same time solving crimes. Royal Tanner, a Navy SEAL, always gets called away for another mission to far off places, leaving them little time to get to know each other and discover if what they have is the real thing. This keeps readers involved and eager for the next book in the series.