Created By: Lomerell on December 6, 2012 Last Edited By: Lomerell on March 27, 2015

Plot Avalanche

In the final Act, resolutions occur at breakneck speed, successfully concluding all threads.

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Trope
A Script Speak trope:

You've got Four Lines, All Waiting, a Gambit Pileup and a Jigsaw Puzzle Plot. Too much is happening for a single Reveal to solve. You might dread being Left Hanging or for a Kudzu Plot to descend into Sequelitis, but for once, the writer has actually thought of everything and manages to conclude all Plot Threads in rapid succession.

That's a Plot Avalanche: It resolves the majority of plot points. Any Sequel Hooks are clearly distinct from the main plot. Once the dust settles, there's nothing left for the audience to wonder.

It's a Wham Episode or third act at breakneck speed, or The Climax on steroids. Expect multiple Reveals and UnReveals. Chekhov's Armoury alone doesn't constitute a Plot Avalanche unless revelations occur in rapid succession.

Doesn't apply to a Grand Finale unless ALL Myth Arcs are resolved. Only applies to a Final Season if it clearly was planned from the very beginning. Can apply to the climax of a single episode with a complex plot structure.

The polar opposite of Arc Fatigue and Gainax Endings. Also contrast: The Chris Carter Effect, Kudzu Plot.

Sister trope to Cosmic Deadline.

Named for Brandon Sanderson, whose ability to bring myriad gambits to generally satisfying conclusions in a very small space became known as the "Sanderson Avalanche."

WARNING: Because this is an Ending Trope, expect many spoilers.

Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
  • In the penultimate chapter of Watchmen, many minor characters return, and whatever storylines they had come to a head, only to get massacred by the beginning of the final chapter.

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
  • Memento, which shows the main plot chronologically backwards and a subplot/backstory chronologically moving forwards. As the pace of revelation increases, both lines meet at the film's conclusion.
  • Fight Club deals for a long time with mundane (but increasing) problems of the protagonist: Insomnia, depression, isolation. Just before The Reveal, tension and pace reach new heights.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
  • Brandon Sanderson, the trope namer, has several. Most notably:
  • Speaker For The Dead by Orson Scott Card. Multiple mysteries and gambits are introduced throughout; all are solved in the span of a few chapters.
  • In the Michael Slade novel Ghoul, it seems like there couldn't possibly be time to resolve the simultaneous manhunts for the three killers -- a psycho, a bomber, and a hitman -- who've been plaguing Vancouver and London, not to mention the interwoven thread of the mysterious Saxon Hyde. Then a Plot Avalanche is unleashed that brings all these subplots to a head with The Reveal that they're all different personalities of the same very sick man.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live Action TV]] [[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]] [[/folder]]
Community Feedback Replies: 26
  • December 7, 2012
    Arivne
    I have italicized and (where possible) Namespaced all of the work names in the examples.
  • December 7, 2012
    Lomerell
    Ah, thanks man!
  • December 7, 2012
    Cidolfas
    • This is a favorite tactic of Tom Holt, whose later books often have a single chapter easily twenty pages long full of nothing but exposition which explains and ties up all the plot threads in the book.
    • Chrono Cross has an Info Dump just before the final boss which explains (to some extent) pretty much everything that happened up until that point.
  • December 7, 2012
    Lomerell
    Would those qualify? They sound more like straight InfoDumps. The Plot Avalanche (as I envisioned it) meant to include not only revelations (Once More With Clarity) but also an increase in action -- the pace quickens. I'm unfamiliar with the works you cite but in general, exposition/explanation (especially in the epilogue) just slows things down. This may even be the intent; a sigh of a relief after the action. But the Plot Avalanche in the works I referenced are part of the climax(es).

    However, I'm beginning to fear there aren't enough examples.

  • December 7, 2012
    Lomerell
    In other words, this should be different from The Summation.
  • December 7, 2012
    SharleeD
    • In the Michael Slade novel Ghoul, it seems like there couldn't possibly be time to resolve the simultaneous manhunts for the three killers -- a psycho, a bomber, and a hitman -- who've been plaguing Vancouver and London, not to mention the interwoven thread of the mysterious Saxon Hyde. Then a Plot Avalanche is unleashed that brings all these subplots to a head with The Reveal that they're all different personalities of the same very sick man.
  • December 7, 2012
    WaxingName
    Already Have: Cosmic Deadline
  • December 7, 2012
    Lomerell
    "...and had to slap together the ending at the last minute" (from the page quote) is in direct contradiction with this trope. Some examples, too, seem like opposites to me, though I see the "Sanderson Avalanche" was cited.

    This trope is about wrapping everything up -- effectively -- but KOTOR 2 is cited for Cosmic Deadline for it's UNFINISHED quality. Flat What? The second season of Heroes, which is incredibly jumbled and virtually nothing is resolved?

    Admittedly I didn't find Cosmic Deadline before this write up, though I was looking through the descriptions for Kudzu Plot, Gambit Pileup (etc) for something like this and couldn't find anything.
  • December 8, 2012
    WaxingName
    ^From the looks of it, it seems that Cosmic Deadline is just this YKTTW when caused by production problems. But I actually didn't know that Cosmic Deadline had to be caused by rushed production. Also, I didn't know that this YKTTW was just when a show wraps up effectively; you focused too much on how it ends at a fast pace.

    I don't really know what to do now. You could either expand this to include when a show wraps up rapidly, good or not, so that Cosmic Deadline is a subtrope. Or we could do the same to Cosmic Deadline. You could also make it clearer that Plot Avalanche is when the show wraps up in a good way rapidly.
  • December 8, 2012
    Lomerell
    I move to make Cosmic Deadline a parent trope, with this YKTTW subordinate; it leaves room for a "they don't wrap everything up" as an opposite to this one (not required, just an option).

    As-written, Cosmic Deadline is success/failure agnostic. It also doesn't address whether it has to be production-problem caused or whether it's just a feature of most fiction. This allows us to keep Cosmic Deadline as-is; it's too vague for my personal preference, flexibility is expected in Supertropes.

    One thing I wrestled with in the writeup is whether this has to be YMMV. If presented neutrally (which I've tried to do), it's independent of audience reaction - any reader can tell that MORE things are concluded in a Plot Avalanche than an ongoing Kudzu Plot, regardless whether the reader is satisfied or pleased. If the author ties up everything (minus Sequel Hooks) it's a Plot Avalance.

    If, however, Cosmic Deadline is only related to Executive Meddling, I don't think the two are related.
  • December 8, 2012
    MorganWick
    I get the sense that Cosmic Deadline is this trope Done Badly and this trope is Cosmic Deadline Done Well (not that I would have guessed that this trope was supposed to be positive before reading it). I know that Cosmic Deadline is referenced in and may be named for one of the entries in The Universal Genre Savvy Guide in a way that implies a reference to a single author trying to wrap everything up quickly.
  • December 9, 2012
    Lomerell
    If we go that route, Cosmic Deadline needs to be cleaned up because it contains examples of both.

    Listing Cosmic Deadline in this description (for now) as a sister trope.
  • December 9, 2012
    NESBoy
    In the penultimate chapter of Watchmen, a good number of minor characters return, and whatever storylines they had come to a head, only to get massacred by the beginning of the final chapter.
  • December 10, 2012
    Lomerell
    Added folder end tags and Watchmen example.
  • December 10, 2012
    StarSword
    Needs to be marked as Spoilered Rotten, IMHO. And I don't think it's YMMV.

    Live Action TV:
  • December 10, 2012
    Lomerell
    Both added. Also have revised the description significantly to focus more on effectively concluding the plot so that differences with Cosmic Deadline (however that is handled henceforth) are clear for the moment.
  • December 10, 2012
    Lomerell
    Also note that while "expect spoilers" errs on the side of caution, this trope doesn't necessarily require you to list WHAT gets resolved -- in fact, by its very nature, that would make the page hard to read (every bullet would be a paragraph). But rather why it's considered a Plot Avalanche: Number of threads and how rapidly they are resolved.

    One option is to name the mysteries without naming their solutions.
  • December 10, 2012
    StarSword
    Link tweaks.
  • December 10, 2012
    Lomerell
    How?
  • December 12, 2012
    Lomerell
    Added foldercontrol (I think?) and tweaked the Laconic
  • December 17, 2012
    Lomerell
    YKTTW Bump though I am putting this Up For Grabs. I believe this IS a trope and it ISN'T covered by Cosmic Deadline or others (though it could be with significant changes), but I no longer have time to watch it.
  • December 17, 2012
    TheHandle
    Code Geass has had this problem in both seasons. The second season's latter part developed at such breakneck speeds that people dubbed it Code Trainwreck.
  • December 17, 2012
    robinjohnson
    • The short-lived Brit Com Mr Don And Mr George played with this. At the end of every episode, a half-dozen characters from abandoned plot threads and throwaway jokes throughout the episode would arrive from all directions demanding resolutions.
  • December 27, 2012
    Lomerell
    The film Super 8 nearly resolves a Chekhovs Armoury in rapid succession in the third act.
  • March 27, 2015
    DAN004
    Bump, maybe
  • March 27, 2015
    DracMonster
    Plot Resolution Avalanche might be clearer, methinks.

    • Elf Quest has built up a large number of unresolved plots over the years due to having its various series Cut Short. Final Quest is addressing these at breakneck speed to bring things to a close.

    EDIT: Wait, this is very close to Wrap It Up. We need to make sure it's distinct.
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