Important note: this is not to be confused with the Ultimate Battle or the Doomed-To-Fail Battle. This is a good ending, but use it cautiously. Some books would take a Ultimate Battle better than they would a Temporary Victory. Use discretion.
What exactly IS the Temporary Victory? Well, it’s not an “ending” per se, because the word “Temporary” implies that there is more to be seen. But when used as an ending, it looks a lot like the pic above. There’s more than a few elements you have to convey when using this ending, and it can be tricky. But, used effectively, it can be the best kind of ending. Usually, it’s used to set up a sequel.
First of all: the Temporary Victory must convey a feeling of “Good, but only for now”. The better it conveys that sentiment, the better. You have to be preparing, ending, cliffhanging (What a great word, y’know?), creating a feeling of victory, and creating a feeling of well-earned rest. This has more elements than the Ultimate Battle, and in so being, is usually trickier.
First, make the battle hard-won. The Battle of Helm’s Deep took the space of a full-length feature to film, so just ask the extras to find out how they felt. Ha ha. But seriously: make the battle both a emotional test and a test of strength to the heroes. Take the hero through the fire with them. Make the focus personally close in these crucial moments. Stress on how they need victory so badly. Then, make them win.
On that note, you must also create an atmosphere of doubt. Movie directors do this with a little theatric music and dialogue; you must do similar with words. Make a talking scene were the heroes are gathered around a fire or something, discussing how the Dark Lord will make his next move. Take the reader and put him or her in that circle with them. Strengthen feelings of doubt and uneasiness, and this is what makes the Temporary Victory feel truly “temporary”.
Note: do not cause despair in your readers and characters. Cause only a thin despondency. Hinting is key here, as you’ve heard me say before. Don’t make the sense of “we’ve won, but only round one” so strong that the reader gets the sense instead of “it’s just hopeless”. Make the atmosphere of doubt a little lighter.
Then, create a feeling of safeness, of security. Make your heroes a Gethsemane, a place where they can enjoy some hard-earned rest. What do your heroes like best? Make them do that. Bar-going, target practice, racing, thumb wars, video games, whatever. Just make sure that you enjoy a moment of peace away from everything. This contrasts well with the feeling of gloom you get when causing doubt in your reader.
After that, you need a healthy dose of preparation. This usually comes before the leisure and right before doubt bit, so make sure to add it as such. It doesn’t necessarily add to the uneasiness, but it does add some security to your reader’s peace of mind. They know the Dark Lord (Or whoever he/she may be) is still out there, and worrying won’t do anything about it.
Missing this part can be fatal. It’s like someone who just survived a wolf attack in wolf-infested woods just breathes a sigh of relief and proceeds to drink a bottle of beer. What? No dressing your wounds? No running? No preparation for the next battle you know is coming? The harder won a battle is, the more annoyed your reader will be at you if you miss this part. So please: make a scene in which the Temporary Victors clearly see the coming threat and are getting prepared for it. Then, create your feeling of doubt.
When that’s all good, drop your cliffhanger. This can be as big as you want, but I try to balance the feeling of “we beat the bad guy” with “there’s more to tell” so that the reader doesn’t come away saying “I hate this book”. Readers can be very temperamental, especially those with small wallets. If you make the cliffhanger on this book too bad, it might waste their enthusiasm for the next one. Plus, some readers (make that ALL, to one degree or another) like a feeling of finality to their stories. Keep the “victory” part, but don’t forget the “temporary” bit. Balance them. Drop a cliffhanger that isn’t too terrible, but potent enough for a second novel. One you’ve got all these elements in, you’ve got yourself a well-crafted Temporary Victory. Time to start on novel two.
Creation Challenge: Take an Ultimate Battle archetype from a single novel or movie that you really like. What would the ending be like if it were a Temporary Victory? Who would die in the fight? What would the heroes do to celebrate or take a load off, or, to put it differently, what would be their safe haven? What would they do to prepare? What might be a cool cliffhanger?
Good luck, and happy writing!