The Price of Victory

Christian Fantasy Writing

Recently I read a book (which shall remain nameless), in which the author built up the danger posed by the enemy through the entire story. As the plot progressed, the protagonist spent much energy to find the antagonist and prevent his evil deeds from coming to full fruition, but when the confrontation with this dreadful foe finally comes, the protagonist vanquishes him and undoes all his deeds with only slight effort. There was no cost to the triumph, and no sense of satisfaction in the victory.

This story illustrated an important point–victory without cost often rings false.

One reason is that it preserves the integrity of the story. If you have suggested the antagonist possesses great power, than his defeat shouldn’t be a flippant matter, or you lose the momentum built over the course of the book. In fact, the greatest victory of all time (the resurrection of Christ) came at the greatest cost (the Cross), and stories resonate with that truth when they reflect the price of victory. The turning point–that moment when victory is won after all seems lost–gains meaning when it comes with sacrifice.

Lord of the Rings, for example, would have lost much of its impact as a story if Frodo and Sam marched up to the Cracks of Doom and tossed in the Ring unimpeded–no harm, no struggle, the enemy vanquished merely by their choice to make the endeavor. Rather Frodo and others sacrifice much to preserve Middle Earth. The shadow of loss touches them, their path to triumph isn’t easy, but even their loss ultimately becomes redeemed. Through the price they pay, the victory has greater meaning. That holds true for most stories, I believe.

What do you think? Have you read books where the ending fell flat or the victory seemed impossibly contrived? How did that color your view of the book?

Comments

  • Mirriam
    June 24, 2011 - 3:44 pm · Reply

    I read a few books like that once; the Princess and the Hound and the Princess and the Bear. They could have been good books, but they built up to powerful climaxes – and fell flat. It left me going “…wait, what? It’s over? That was it?” It was far too easy. 300 pages of mounting danger should not be ended in half a page.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      June 28, 2011 - 7:49 pm · Reply

      Exactly, Mirriam! Even if I enjoyed the first part of the story, when the end comes off wrong, it spoils the entire book.

  • Mary
    June 25, 2011 - 10:18 am · Reply

    I agree. If victory can be achieved with little or no cost in real life, that’s great (though it still won’t be as meaningful or highly valued, in my opinion). But in fiction, victory needs to cost something especially if the author has built up a bunch of drama about how great the evil or danger the hero/ine is up against is.
    And really there are very few instances, even in real life, in which victory can come at little or no cost. Most often there are high prices paid along the road to victory. Very much of the time there are lingering consequences even long after the victory has already been achieved.
    If it doesn’t cost anything, it doesn’t mean anything.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      June 28, 2011 - 7:57 pm · Reply

      Good points about victory in life, Mary. If you read the stories of great men and women, or even look at the small day-to-day battles we all experience in life, it demonstrates that victory has a cost. In persevering through the difficulties and making sacrifices the victory comes. We are freely given all things in Christ, but we’re also called to lay down our lives and follow him…until the day that His victory is made complete. And what a wonderful day that will be!

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