Just as a shaggy dog joke isn’t funny if the teller forgets the punchline, a novel isn’t complete if it doesn’t finish the main story. This requires knowing what is the story.
Three people walk into a bar is not a story and sets few expectations. A Rabbi, a Priest, and a Monk walk into a bar isn’t a story but it sets certain expectations. The first sentence of my novel, Angel of Mortality: “All her life, Dr. Raisa Ilyushkin loved tiny things that performed great miracles.” is also the last line. Somewhere in the 85,000 words between the opening and closing something must occur that elucidates the meaning behind that statement.
The novel includes monsters, plagues, marriage, and global politics but what completes the story is that the protagonist, Raisa Ilyushkin sees the same message in a different light. Tiny things and great miracles take on a new meaning to Raisa and to the reader. Like Raisa, we form an attachment to these tiny things, intelligent nanobots that make up continent-spanning robots–the great miracle.
Meanwhile, Raisa evolves from a hermit-like lab rat to an outgoing global leader, beloved for her understanding and compassion. To finish the story, I must satisfy the reader that Raisa’s evolution is complete and the tiny things have indeed completed a great miracle.