Is there just one climax in a story? Recently someone told me they were working hard to make ‘the’ climax of her story peak just right. I thought for a second, wait a minute . . . you’re having only one climax to your story?
Let’s talk about this because I think many beginning writers think there’s one explosive climax in a novel – that isn’t completely wrong – but the climax actually has four components:
1. The anticlimactic moment – where you add a few tidbits and do some last-minute steering and scheming to prepare for the main climax
2. The moment of truth – the character’s inner revelation/reaction
3. Climax – where the character(s) affect the outcome of the story
4. Results of the climax – was villain shot, but they still don’t know where the child is?
Most likely you have an idea where the ‘climax’ will take place or how it’s going to happen. I want you to consider other options that might make the scene more dramatic, have more danger, perhaps even more heart-break. Work out several scenarios in your mind – which is the right place and event for your earth shattering climax?
Every book has a beginning, middle and end. Rising action, climax and falling action. It’s all waiting for the ‘big clash’ . . . the ‘fallout’ . . . the ‘revelation.’ What is going to happen? What do you need to let the reader know to set up the climax? Write it down – this prevents the ‘red herring’ dilemma.
The process of the main character’s internal conflict takes place along the way but must come to a kind of epiphany before the climax. Why? You certainly don’t want his/her decisions to be based on or be affected by the climax.
Think your character’s decisions through. Give him/her different choices and decide which would work best for the story and the characters. Remember, your hero’s moment of truth determines her behavior in the climax. So ask yourself, what needs to be in the book?
Often times the climax is like losing your cool. We all explode sometimes. We let it fly and don’t hold back. Also keep in mind the more challenging or upsetting you make the climax for her at the end, the more heroic he becomes – increasing your reader’s satisfaction.
What needs to happen immediately after the climax? Most stories aren’t over after the main climax. There are still loose-ends that need to be resolved and you can be sure your reader knows every one of them. Perhaps the hero and heroine are still in a life-threatening situation. Most likely there’s still work to be done for a complete resolution of your character’s predicament. I like to think of it as resolving the moment.
If you’re exhausted and satisfied when you type ‘the end’ . . . you’ve done your job.