I feel like, as much as there can be a “hot button” issue in the fight community, this is one. But I don’t mean “hot button” in that people get triggered by it, but instead that it is one where people either really like ties in their battles, and hate there being a winner or vice versa.
It’s something that I have received feedback on, fairly regularly. If a story has a clear winner, it should have been a tie. If it was a tie (which I haven’t done more than a couple times), the story should have had a clear winner.
From all the feedback I have gotten, here is what I understand the divide to be.
Now, it is too simplistic to say, but I think there are two main camps. Or more specifically, two different things readers want to walk away from a story with.
- Consequence (which you get in stories with a winner), or;
- The freedom to imagine more (what you get when there is a tie).
The group that wants consequence, enjoy the feeling that the battle presented in a story was for something. That the fighters struggled against one another so that one might obtain and the other lose. And further, that after the story, the winner will get to enjoy the fruits of her victory and the loser to continue to suffer the consequences of her defeat.
Now, before a day or two ago, when a close friend made mention of it, I didn’t see it. But with it suggested, I now do. This group enjoys, as the main fulcrum of the story, to be a man. The desire for a man and his family. A competition in which two women fight and writhe to conquer one another, so that, thereafter, they may take their male prize uncontested.
That is not something bad, of course; as most catfight stories are about that very thing. But it is notable because it takes the emphasis off of the women as a pair, and makes the emphasis of the ending about the absence of one of them.
For this crowd, a tie is a robbery of consequence and a theft of the punishment of losing.
The group that wants the freedom to imagine more, sees the women, their rivalry, and the bond they establish through competition, hatred, and jealousy, as the most important part of the story. They fight may begin about a man, a promotion, or because of some slight, but by the end of their struggle, their connection with each other is paramount.
Now, that doesn’t mean they must love each other, as happens in some of my stories. But instead that their need to struggle with one another cannot be quelled or quenched in a single struggle. A single moment of victory vs. loss.
They, their fates, and their souls are from that moment intertwined.
And consequently, a winner in such a battle is just as sour. For it severs that connection and ends the need for more. The rivalry is over. The chance at future conflicts of import lost.
As I explained to another dear friend, a story that ends without a tie is like writing a romance novel and then breaking the main characters up in the final chapter.
Now, despite my descriptions of the above, I have done both and will continue to do so. But I do plan on using and have used a small trick, which in a way mixes the two.
You allow there to be a winner. Allow there to be a loser. But then you do not split them up. Either by having the winner claim the loser in some way or by leaving the consequence of the battle to the reader’s imagination.
For example in Peace Talks, where there was a battle. A victor. But what happened then? What happened when Zahra and Chloe woke up from their post-fight slumber? Was the loser thrown naked into the street to lick her wounds humiliated? Or did she simply begin to lick, when she woke and found her head resting between her rival’s thighs? Did they still hate? Or had their rivalry — their connection become something else?
In that style of ending, there is no tie, but no break-up has occurred. The two combatants in one reader’s mind are still together — either in an ongoing conflict, or lustful resolution. Then in another’s imagination, they are still separate. Still enemies, one greater and one lesser. The consequence occurring just how they’d like to imagine it. The consequence of one fighter’s loss secure.