Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Hey everyone! Er...sorry there wasn't a post yesterday. There was a topic scheduled, but I'm not sure what happened... :(
Here we go with today's post. A simple and appropriate definition of the word climax is: "...point of highest dramatic tension or a major turning point in the action (as of a play)..." (Merriam-Webster Online).
You're probably wondering why someone who just started working on their first big writing project (say that five times fast and tell me if commas are needed) is here to discuss climax. I just thought that I would approach it in my own way. In other words, I'm here to present a definition, example and the basic ideas I have on creating a climax.  I'm  not an expert, so maybe we could work together and figure out what the heck a climax in writing is all about.

I suppose we all know by now, that the climax comes after the rising action. Agreed? Take a look at a post from the other day which has a lovely diagram: Rising Action. While it looks as if there's perfect balance, as if rising and falling action should be split right down the middle by the climax...that doesn't really work well. That post contains some great points, so re-visit it if you need to.
Back to climax. I think there are two big things to at least consider when planning a climax.
Timing: When should the climax occur? How long should it be? 

When depends a lot on your plot, pacing, etc. But I'd say a good place to play around with is about 3/4 of the way into the novel. There has to be enough time for everything to build up and the characters to go on a journey and then they finally hit the climax point. Make no mistake, there's some flexibility for sure. So if you feel that your novel needs a climax sooner or later, try that out too. Just play around with it and have others read and give you feedback. As for how long, no more than a couple chapters seems like a pretty good size. That's about the most I'm planning on making my climax. I want there to be all these shifts and exciting things, but I don't want it to drag on forever. Heck, it might even be shorter. 

Events: What sort of events can be considered part of a climax? Which characters should I include?
Anything, really. Well not anything but almost. Typical scenes include chases and fights between two groups or two characters. Maybe a character will be injured, or killed, or maybe not. I think one of the most important things to consider is: what would be exciting for the reader, in terms of what I've already shown them? Maybe a new setting or action they haven't seen. Also, the climax in some stories is fine with a few characters and others might require several. It all comes down to what it is supposed to mean. Does someone escape or play a trick? What truths are revealed? How will the choices my characters make in these suspenseful, confrontational, emotional moments tell my audience about who they really are?
Let's take a quick look at an example. I'm picking Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (because who hasn't read it after 4+ years and/or doesn't love it? ....don't answer that.)
Essentially what happens is Voldemort and Harry finally have their long awaited confrontation. With wands, of course. I mean, Harry's been dodging this wizard, finding things and running around with his two best friends for so long (that hardly does the plot justice, but you get it). So finally, there's action, suspense and mystery all wrapped into this very short part of the book. Who's going to win? How are they going to win? While it is the moment of highest tension and, arguably, emotion, it is definitely a turning point too.
Consider that Harry has finished his enemy off after all those years, the battle is (mostly) won and...that his life is going to be significantly different afterwards. There can be different interpretations...but I think that the climax of this particular book begins as early as when he makes his decision to sacrifice himself. There, we begin to see that something's turning, changing in his heart and mind. And after the whole climax business, there is a bit of time for some falling action and a conclusion. But more on that in future posts.
So, the author chose to put a fight in, because that seemed most logical. And it was how Harry was going to finally defeat him, right? Despite all the other characters, and there are a lot, this particular piece of the climax had to center around only them. I don't see how it could have worked any other way.

In short, don't be afraid to experiment with what happens in your novel's long as there's character growth, a good amount of suspense/tension and a big change. This part of the novel is what the reader has been waiting for, so make it good!

The one thing I didn't touch upon was writing a climax for a series. What should happen in book 1 that would make a reader still enjoy a sequel or more? Perhaps this will be discussed in future posts. Not sure yet.

Have a fantastic rest of the week. Thanks for reading!


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