The Climax In The Context Of The Story Arc
The climax scene is where you get to shine as an author. Every word you’ve written up to this point is going to pay off.
What is the Climax?
You’ve built your story up to the climax with rising action, and now the climax scene (or scenes) will have the highest level of conflict, the greatest tension, or the most devastating emotional upheaval.
Up to this point there has been no scene as intense as the climax scene.
I read a book where the most intense scene occurred at the midpoint. A woman trapped in a car was slowly being submerged. The scene was wonderfully written and had me turning the pages. The book could have ended there. If I’d stopped reading there, I would have left the book feeling satisfied.
Unfortunately, I had no idea the climax was going to be a let down compared to the midpoint scene. The climax was less tense and less emotionally satisfying. The author built up the expectation by putting a ripper of a scene in the middle of the book and couldn’t keep the excitement rising. I felt let down at the end.
The protagonist must be in your climax scene, or you risk alienating your reader. The protagonist should face the biggest obstacle in the story and determine her own fate.
After the climax you’ll follow up with a resolution to the story.
Famous Climax Scenes
Note: there are story spoilers, so don’t read this section if you want to read the book or see the movie.
Gone Girl: Nick plans to reveal Amy to the world in a novel that reveals the true story of what she did. He thinks he has the upper hand until she tells him she’s pregnant. In order to protect his unborn child, he’ll never be able to leave Amy.
The Martian: Mark is finally at the moment where he launches his space ship so he can intercept with the crew on the Hermes. The tension is built when his ship doesn’t have the range to reach the Hermes and he has to pierce his space suit to propel himself to the Hermes.
The Philosopher’s Stone: Harry, Ron, and Hermione must protect the Philosopher’s Stone from (they think) Snape. They want to stop Snape from giving the stone to Voldemort. Ron sacrifices himself during the climax, and Harry faces the final confrontation alone.
Twilight: Bella is lured into a trap. She faces down the evil vampire and gets injured.
Placement Of The Climax Scene
The climax should happen somewhere around 90% into your novel. This is a guide so you can check you’re not writing too much before or after the climax.
If the climax occurs too early in your story, the reader may get impatient with a long resolution and start skimming.
If the climax appears to late, the resolution may lack depth and the reader finishes the story without being satisfied.
Here’s an example of a story arc from Fictionary. The brown line shows the recommended story arc, and the green line shows the actual story arc for the novel.
You can see above, the inciting incident occurs too late in the story, plot point 1 occurs too quickly after the inciting incident, and the middle occurs too late in the story.
After that, plot point 2 is reached too quickly, denying the reader story depth. By appearing too early, it also means the last act is dragging. Act III is going on for too long.
And on it goes until the climax is too late, and there isn’t enough time for a satisfactory resolution. Meaning the reader won’t read the writer’s next book.
I’ve love to know what you think and if you have any questions 🙂
For some fun, this is my favorite video on why stories captivate.
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