Is this a satisfying ending?

by W

Question: I am working on a fantasy trilogy of novels in which the ending involves the heroes losing against the big bad (the devil) only to then reveal that the whole thing was a test (by god) and they have in fact succeeded in passing the test (by remaining steadfast in their faith).

My fear is that this story ending is unsatisfying and a little bit like 'they all woke up and it was a dream!' What do u people think?

Answer: I think it depends whether you give clues throughout the novel as to what is really going on. Are there things that only make sense once the truth is known?

The reason is that the main character, when he comes to make his choice at the climax, must face a real choice. If he makes the wrong choice and loses the struggle, only to have God rush in and save him, that would be unsatisfying. It would be a false tragedy. I mean, what's the lesson? There's no point trying because you can't win and you'll just get saved anyway so it doesn't matter? Wouldn't it be easier if God did his own dirty work?

On the other hand, the main character's reward at the end may make more sense if the main character chooses not to kill the Devil. He may encounter clues that lead him to suspect something is wrong about this struggle and the belief that you must kill your enemies. His choice at the climax may be to decide to sacrifice himself and lose the battle. That would be a tragi-comic ending (didn't achieve the goal, but it turns out to be a good thing for the main character in that God rewards his choice).

Of course, that would mean the main character changes rather than remains steadfast. If he stays steadfast in his faith and kills the villain, only to find out the struggle was pointless then that would undermine his faith, creating a comi-tragic ending, in which the goal is achieved but it turns out to be a bad thing.

Of course, the fourth option is to have him win the fight and get rewarded. That's the classic happy ending, but I'm guessing you want a more interesting twist.

These are just options. The simple answer is that it's best to avoid the deus ex machina ending where God just shows up and settles everything. The ending should make sense of what came before, not depart from it. The hero's fate should be the result of his choices.

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