A Nod to Rattling Skeletons

I found a word today – Dénouement. This word came into my life while looking up Washington Iriving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Wordie that I am, I looked it up.

  1. The final clarification or resolution of a plot in a play or other work. The solution or outcome of the plot of a play or novel:
    “In the dénouement of many tragedies, the main character dies.”

1745–55; < French: literally, an untying, equivalent to dénouer to untie, Old French desnoer (des- de- + noer to knot < Latin nōdāre, derivative of nōdus knot) + -ment

Washington Irving’s story takes place in 1790 in Sleepy Hollow, the secluded countryside glen  near the old Dutch settlement of Tarrytown, New York . The area is famous for its ghosts and unexplained occurrences, and the most infamous spectre of all is the Headless Horseman. The creepy ghost is said to be the disgruntled spirit of a Hessian soldier who lost his head to  cannon fire in a nearby battle during the Revolutionary War. Because of this, he “rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly quest of his head”. (just love it)

Enter Icabod Crane, a superstitious and somewhat nervous schoolteacher, made even more so by the scary stories shared at a social gathering that evening. After failing in the business of love, he rides home that dark night and passes the old cemetery. As the legend goes, he encounters the Headless Horseman in his ghostly quest, and is never heard from again.

This American classic is most definitely worth a read with the wind howling.
Find it here at Gutenberg.org http://www.gutenberg.org/files/41/41-h/41-h.htm


Dénouement. As a writer I struggle with the character dies part of this. I’ve mentioned before that family and friends regularly say I should up the ante by killing off beloved characters in my unnamed 5-book Magnum Opus where the battle between light and dark is rather intense. They also suggested I kill off one of my main characters in Loving Leonardo. I can see raising stakes in mainstream fiction, but does romance truly need this? On the other hand, the story does have a despicable bad guy (one of my best if I do say so myself). He’s certainly able to end a few lives for emotional impact. With a few chapters left of Loving Leonardo -The Quest, I may or may not. The story and the characters themselves will have to give me a solid reason either way.

From my vantage point as fiction creator, I find this so hard. These people who live on the page don’t necessarily spring forth from a writer’s head fully formed. Oh sure the concept of them often does, but their personalities don’t always arrive until later. In my experience, they slowly reveal themselves and I grow to love them as we become acquainted. At least that’s how it is for me. They’re my lovers and friends, they’re my desires and dreams, my secrets and aspirations. They’re also my laughter and joy, my doubts and pain. My characters are the sum of me, and then some. Yes my bad guys, as dark and murderous as they are, are me too. 😉

Yep, I’ve a lot of skeletons rattling around in the closet of my imagination. It’s a good time of year to acknowledge them!

About ~RoseAnderson

Rose Anderson is an award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and delights in discovering interesting things to weave into stories. Rose also writes under the pen name Madeline Archer.
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