The end of the story

The end of conflict is often end of a story:

  • The invading army is defeated and control of the country is reclaimed by its inhabitants.
  • The teenager escapes the arranged marriage and creates an independent life.
  • The evil ruler is deposed and a benevolent ruler is put in their place.
  • The teenager fighting for survival in the wilderness is rescued and taken home.

You probably have an intuition for these kind of endings, because it is such a common pattern.

There are many ways conflict can be resolved, for example:

  • Conflicts can have competitive, win-lose-draw type resolutions, e.g. the local populace defeat the invading army; the orphaned assassin kills the cruel warlord.
  • They can have co-operative, everybody-wins type resolutions, e.g. the competing characters stop fighting and go into business together. 
  • They can have personal growth, here's-what-I-learned type resolutions, e.g. the stranded teenager learns to survive in the wilderness; the displaced child returns now wiser and more mature.

Often stories will use all of these types of resolution in combination.

In some stories, the conflict is never resolved and the story ends with an impasse.

E.g. the teenagers keep fighting against overwhelming odds and we know they will probably never win, the displaced child never full adjusts to their new home and we feel sad that they will continue to struggle.

However, an unresolved conflict doesn't mean nothing happens in the story. A lot can happen in a story that ends with the characters and/or readers realising the conflict can't be resolved—and that recognition of the impasse becomes the point of the story.

Let's try writing a couple of examples.