Climax! Many of you are probably ready to write the part of your work-in-progress where all the forces collide. It’s what we wait for in a book. The opposing forces are gathering throughout the middle of the story and rushing toward the end for the pay off. Something has to give. If a peaceful compromise is found the story is over. It’s a major letdown. Don’t disappoint your reader by allowing the climax to fizzle. She might be disgusted enough to might throw the book across the room and she certainly won’t buy your next novel!
According to Nancy Kress in Beginning, Middles and Ends, the climax is whatever big event the forces in your story have been building toward throughout the book.
The climax should do four things:
1. It must satisfy the view of life implied in your story.
2. It must deliver emotion.
The readers should feel what your characters feel. We all want to identify with the story people we’re reading about.
3. It must deliver an appropriate level of emotion.
The level of drama in the climax should be the same as the level of drama in the story. For a thriller or suspense story, shoot off fireworks.
But in slower paced, quieter stories, a few kernels of popcorn popping might be better than an entire sky full of firecrackers.
4. The climax must be logical to your plot and your story.
So where does the climax come from? It grows out of the actions that precede it—what takes place in the earlier sections of the book. The climax must be a natural outgrowth of who your characters are and what events come before. It should be not only plausible for this particular group of characters, but also practically inevitable.
Here’s a good test for your climax. If your characters were completely different, would the climax be the same? The answer should be no.
The writer makes a promise to the reader right from the beginning. In a romance you promise to finally bring the hero and heroine together after keeping them a part for the majority of the story. In a mystery you promise to solve the crime and bring the murderer to justice. If you deliver anything less the reader will feel cheated and we wouldn’t want that, now would we?
We can’t avoid the promised collision and we can’t use new characters or situations to solve the problems we’re created and intensified throughout the story. All the conflicts, situations, tensions must be resolved at the climax in a logical and satisfying way using the same characters. The cavalry can’t come charging over the hill to save the day.
The easiest way for me to come up with a great climax is to figure it out ahead of time. I write down all the problems my characters need to solve and how they can do that. More than one resolution will probably work. Pick the most unexpected one as long as it makes sense. It has to be totally believable.
Do you have any books you love because of their fantastic endings?
I’ll be giving away a copy of Love by the Book. Please leave your e-mail if you’d like your name thrown in the hat.
A sweeping love story set in a lavish seaside mansion in 1901 Rhode Island. Melinda Hollister is a society lady, intent on finding a rich husband before her peers discover her quickly diminishing wealth. Nick Bryson is all business, focused on making a name for himself in his father's steamship line. Despite the marriage of their siblings, they rarely gave each other a second glance—until a tragic accident results in Melinda and Nick being appointed as co-guardians of their three-year-old niece Nell.
In order to get better acquainted with Nell and one another, Melinda and Nick agree to spend the summer in their own private quarters of the Bryson family vacation home, Summerhill. As their love for Nell grows, so does their attraction to each other. And for the first time in their lives, they sense that God has a bigger plan in motion.
Yet old habits die hard and Melinda and Nick each find it difficult to resist the pull of their former worlds.
When the unthinkable happens, they find themselves faced with seemingly impossible choices and a new understanding of God's true love.