Thursday, 28 June 2012

Ka-Boom! How To Write A Nail Biting Climax

Elliott and ET race to his spaceship
photo credit, 
In most cases it's the climax and resulting conclusion that stay with the reader long after the book is shelved, and therefore has the greatest impact. For a writer, the goal is to provide an ending that makes sense of everything but also generates a deeper understanding.

Every successful novel has three elements; a beginning that hooks the reader (the unreachable goal for the protagonist), a middle that sets up the crisis (what prevents our hero from obtaining his goal), and the climax (what he's forced to do to reach the goal) which leads to a resolution.

Harry discovers Quirrell not Snape is the two faced villain
photo credit,

Simply put, the climax is the moment of crisis when the protagonist has no way out and has to make a decision or act in such a way to reach the story goal. Up to this point, the reader has observed the hero struggle to reach the story goal and is familiar with his particular behavior or pattern of problem solving. It's this personality trait that either helps or hinders him.

Deckard barely hangs on in Blade Runner
photo credit,
The moment the stakes are highest our hero is faced with the toughest situation. In order to solve the story goal he must choose to stick with the same behavior or switch to an alternative. However, each choice comes with the risk of failure or loss of whatever he values most.

Sheriff Brody running out of boat in JAWS
photo credit,


Think 'danger and opportunity'. Our hero has to make a decision to save the story goal, but we don't know if it's the right one until the very end. All we know is that he's doomed if he does nothing, but at the same time there's an unseen/unexpected potential for growth or new beginning.


Depending on how you want your story to end, helps determine what questions or issues need clarifying. Once you've established what should be answered, imagine an extensive, irreversible event that will force those issues to be addressed.


Like bacteria that continue to live and grow, your protagonist should have evolved from who he was at the awesome beginning that hooked us in the first place. It's imperative to show how our hero's behavior is challenged by pursuing the story goal. Ultimately, it's the decision the hero makes in the end that leads to personal growth and showcases the moral or theme of the story.

A reader will invest hours of time into your novel, make sure their last impression is the greatest one.

Next week, I'll be blogging how to nail your ending.



Mere Joyce said...

Well, you've just made me want to watch a whole bunch of movies...=P

Great post! Especially the yogurt part. It actually makes an interestingly good analogy...

BR Myers said...

HA! Yes, to the video store. Seriously, some of the best sites for authors are by screen play writers.

Tonja Drecker said...

Love the yogurt comparison! It's something that will stick in the mind.

BR Myers said...

And it's also good for you.

Unknown said...

Bethany, I too want to rent movies...strangely have an urge for yogurt; after checking the expiration dates, that is. In addition, I must say this is the best writing blog I have come across. In fact one of the best collections of writing on writing that I've collected in my career of collecting quotes on writing on writing ;). I found you through Ann Marie Walker's blog. Thank you for the needed, and honed, inspiration!

BR Myers said...

Thank you, Lee. Ann Marie is one of my on-line alliances. Good luck with your writing.

Melissa said...

Great post! I'll be writing my climax scene soon. I'll have to keep this in mind. :)

Katie T. said...

Fab post. It's "Chief" Brody, btw. Excellent novel and movie. Thanks for sharing this.

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