Falling Action: Definition, Examples & Writing Use
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. What is Falling Action?
  2. How Falling Action Works in a Story
  3. Examples of Falling Action
  4. Why is Falling Action Important?
  5. How to Write Falling Action
  6. Tips for Writing a Great Falling Action

Picture this: you're reading a riveting novel. The hero has just overcome the biggest challenge, the climax has been reached, and now you're eagerly following the story as it starts to wind down. This part of the narrative, my friends, is what we call the "falling action". Today we'll explore the definition of falling action, its role in storytelling, and how to craft it effectively in your own writing.

What is Falling Action?

The definition of falling action is pretty straightforward. It's the part of the story that comes after the climax—when the main problem has been resolved, and things start to return to normal for the characters.

The Role of Falling Action

Think of the falling action as the cool down after a vigorous workout. It's the narrative's way of catching its breath after the intense climax. Here's what you can generally expect from this part of the story:

  • Decrease in tension: After the suspense and excitement of the climax, the falling action allows the story’s tension to decrease gradually.
  • Resolution of subplots: Any lingering subplots, or minor storylines, are typically wrapped up during the falling action.
  • Setting up the denouement: The falling action sets the stage for the story’s conclusion or denouement, where any remaining loose ends are tied up.

Where It Fits in the Narrative Structure

Every story follows a certain structure—beginning, middle, and end. The falling action is a key part of this structure, and it fits right between the climax and the resolution. Here's how it works:

  1. Exposition: The story begins by setting up the characters, setting, and main conflict.
  2. Rising Action: The tension builds as the main characters face challenges and the main conflict becomes more complex.
  3. Climax: The point of highest tension. The main conflict reaches a turning point.
  4. Falling Action: The story begins to wind down. The main conflict has been resolved, and the characters start dealing with the aftermath.
  5. Resolution: The story concludes, and any remaining questions are answered.

Understanding the definition of falling action and where it fits in the overall narrative structure can greatly enhance your storytelling skills. Now that we've got the basics covered, let's move on to some examples to see the falling action in all its glory.

How Falling Action Works in a Story

So you understand the definition of falling action, but how does it actually work in a story? Let's dive in and explore this topic further.

Falling Action and Character Development

Falling action isn't just about wrapping up the story—it's also a chance for characters to reflect, grow, and show how they've been changed by the events of the story. This is a time when:

  • Characters reflect: Your characters can take a moment to look back on what has happened, and digest their experiences.
  • Characters grow: Characters might show how they've grown or changed as a result of the climax.
  • Characters prepare: If there's a sequel in the works, the falling action might include some foreshadowing or setup for the next installment.

Falling Action's Relationship with Climax

The falling action is like the echo of the climax—it's where the effects of the climax are felt and dealt with. It's important to note that:

  1. The climax dictates the falling action: The events of the falling action directly stem from the climax. This is where the characters deal with the aftermath of the climax's events.
  2. The falling action maintains narrative consistency: The falling action should feel like a natural progression from the climax, keeping the story's flow smooth and believable.
  3. The falling action offers closure: While the climax is the peak of excitement, the falling action offers a sense of closure and satisfaction, preparing readers for the story's end.

Understanding how falling action works in a story can help you craft more satisfying narratives and create a more meaningful journey for your characters. But don't just take my word for it—let's look at some examples to see how it all comes together in practice.

Examples of Falling Action

Now that we've discussed the definition of falling action and its role in a story, it's time to see it in action. Let's look at a few examples from well-known stories.

Falling Action in "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone"

In J.K. Rowling's first Harry Potter book, the falling action occurs after Harry, Hermione, and Ron prevent the resurrection of Lord Voldemort. During this stage:

  • Harry recovers: After his battle, Harry wakes up in the hospital and has a conversation with Dumbledore, which provides answers to his questions.
  • The school year ends: The house cup is awarded to Gryffindor, and students leave Hogwarts for the summer.
  • Harry goes back home: Harry returns to the Dursleys, showing how he has changed over the school year.

Falling Action in "The Hunger Games"

In Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games", the falling action happens after Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark trick the game makers into letting them both live. This section involves:

  1. Returning home: Katniss and Peeta return to District 12 as victors, their lives forever changed by the games.
  2. Dealing with the aftermath: They must navigate the political implications of their act of defiance and deal with their newfound fame.
  3. Preparing for what's next: Katniss begins to realize the consequences of her actions, setting the stage for the next book.

These examples highlight the various ways falling action can manifest in a story, demonstrating how it helps wrap up the narrative and set the stage for either an ending or a sequel.

Why is Falling Action Important?

Falling action, as per our definition, isn't just a random part of a story—it's a key element that carries a lot of weight. Let's explore why that is.

Resolution of Conflict

Firstly, the falling action is where the story's main conflict gets resolved. It's the moment when the dust settles and readers can breathe a sigh of relief. Like when Harry Potter wakes up safe in the hospital or when Katniss and Peeta return to District 12, the story's tension decreases, and we start to see the aftermath of the climax.

Character Development

Secondly, the falling action is a crucial stage for character development. It's here where we see how the events have changed our characters. Harry's experiences matured him, and Katniss became aware of the political implications of her actions. These changes help relate the characters to the readers, making the story more impactful.

Setting up the Ending or Sequel

Finally, the falling action sets up the ending or, in some cases, a sequel. It provides a smooth transition to the conclusion, tying up loose ends. Alternatively, if the story continues, it hints at what's to come, like how Katniss's defiance set up the events for the next book in the series.

So, you see, the falling action isn't just filler—it's an essential part of storytelling that brings resolution, showcases character change, and paves the way for the ending or a sequel.

How to Write Falling Action

Now that we've explored the definition of falling action and its importance, let's dive into how you can craft it effectively in your narrative.

Resolve the Main Conflict

As we've learned, the falling action is the phase where the main conflict loosens its grip. It's time for the storm to pass and the clouds to clear. Your main character has faced the climax, and the results are in. Now, depict the outcome. How has the situation changed? Show this transformation to your readers to offer them closure.

Show Character Evolution

Character development doesn't stop at the climax. The falling action is a great stage to highlight how your characters have evolved due to their experiences. Have they learned something valuable? Have they grown stronger or maybe more vulnerable? Show this change, making your characters more relatable and real to your readers.

Set Up the Ending or Sequel

Lastly, use the falling action to transition the narrative towards the end smoothly, or set the stage for a sequel, if there's one. If you're wrapping up the story, tie up loose ends and answer any remaining questions. If there's a sequel, drop some hints or leave a few questions open-ended to pique the readers' curiosity.

Remember, writing falling action is about resolving the conflict, showing character growth, and setting up what's next. Keep these in mind, and you'll be on your way to writing a compelling falling action.

Tips for Writing a Great Falling Action

Now, let's delve into some practical tips to help you craft a great falling action that keeps your readers engaged right to the end.

Keep the Pace

Just because the climax has passed, doesn't mean the story should drag. Yes, the tension has dropped, but keep the story moving. Maintain a steady pace to keep your readers intrigued and prevent them from losing interest. Remember, falling action isn't about slowing down; it's about moving towards resolution.

Stay True to Your Characters

In the falling action, your characters are dealing with the aftermath of the climax. Make sure their actions and reactions align with their personalities and development throughout the story. Consistency is key. If your hero has always been brave, they wouldn't suddenly become a coward, would they?

Use Foreshadowing

Foreshadowing is a writer's best friend. It allows you to hint at what's to come, keeping your readers guessing and engaged. Use it wisely in your falling action to create a sense of anticipation.

Don't Rush the Ending

Give your story the ending it deserves. Don't rush the falling action just to get to the end. Take the time to tie up loose ends, answer questions and wrap up subplots. Your readers have journeyed with you this far - make sure the conclusion is worth their time.

Mastering the falling action is a skill that takes practice. But with these tips in mind, you're well on your way to creating a satisfying resolution that stays with your readers long after they've turned the last page.

If you enjoyed exploring the concept of falling action and want to delve deeper into the intricacies of storytelling, check out the workshop 'Documentary Treatment: The Last Act' by Reshelshah. This workshop will provide you with valuable insights on crafting a compelling ending for your documentaries and other narrative projects.