You know how it goes. You’ve seen it a thousand times. That fresh-faced, idealistic hero is up against impossible odds, and there’s no way he can get himself out this time. He’s locked in chains. The villain has his hand on the button that will destroy the world. His girlfriend is dangling over a pit full of alligators. Who will save the day?
You know someone will. We’ve all seen Star Wars. Even for those who haven’t, I wager that when they do, they’ll know from experience that the Death Star won’t really blow up Alderaan. Here comes Han Solo! He had a change of heart! Luke fires off the rocket! The rebels are saved, just seconds from destruction!
I would get a lot more excited if it wasn’t for the fact that it is now cliche. A year ago, I lay on my bed watching Watchmen on cable. The ending, without spoiling anything, is decidedly anticlimactic. And I loved it. The talk I had with a friend about it went deeper than many other “story talks” I’ve had in the past.
It makes me realize that I love anticlimaxes. The most memorable conversation I ever had with my father about The Lord of the Rings movies was about whether the ending is too perfect. One of my favorite novels, The Brothers Karamazov, ends with a terrible misunderstanding that results in something even more terrible.There is an authentic and heart-wrenching quality to an anticlimax that sticks with me with more depth than any happy ending.
It also wins my respect. In this culture, it shows courage for a storyteller to make the good guys lose. But the beauty is that it forces the person taking in the story to sit down afterward and think. Outrage demands questions. That can lead you to find more meaning in a story than you might have found otherwise. Just like life, which is the very thing a story sets out to depict.
What does this have to do with The Kingdom Trilogy?. It has resulted in a drastic overhaul of some plotlines in recent weeks. I like the results. In fact, I love them. My protagonist, Arman, used to be Luke Skywalker with brown hair. Now he’s a timid boy who doesn’t have the courage to stand for what he believes. His attempts to make that stand result in some delicious complications. This fall, I’ll let you decide if they amount to an anticlimax.