Hi there guys! Now that NaNoWriMo is over many people are going to be starting the revision process. For this week’s Writing Wednesday, we are going to talk about a few of the general elements that contribute to powerful climaxes in a story. If a reader makes it through an entire novel, the climax is what they will remember the most about the story. Besides occurring near the end of the tale, it is often the most emotionally charging and tense part of the plot. These are a few tips that can be used to increase the level of reader satisfaction in the climax.
Fulfill Your Promises
This is the most important element within a climax. In fact, this is often what sets the climax and other conflicts apart. A climax has some sort of resolution a conflict does not. If you have presented a major problem in your story and fail to “solve” the problem at the end, then at the most, you have the start of a series. You also run the risk of writing an unsatisfying novel. Discovering the “promises” you’ve made is fairly easy. Give an alpha reader the first couple of chapters, and ask them what do they think will be wrapped up in this story. Sometimes, a writer can focus on a major plot and not realize that they have made a minor promise about a romantic relationship in chapter three.
In a mystery novel, the primary conflict is the mystery. This does not mean that the criminal needs to be caught, but readers expect that at least they will learn who it is. If they end the book and still have no idea who did the crime, then they are likely to be dissatisfied with the entire book, despite whatever quality of writing it held.
If you want to learn anything else about “Fulfilling Your Promises,” Writing Excuses has a wonderful podcast episode on it. It is about fifteen minutes long, and I have found their writing advice far more helpful than most of the college creative writing courses that I have taken.
The climatic portion of a book is almost always the important event that will involve the characters of the story. Most novels will have several different plot threads and will try to wrap all of them up at once. This seems like the best idea, because more conflicts mean it is more exciting, but that is not the case. Having multiple unrelated conflicts resolved at the same time will start to create a bunch of noise that will distract the reader from what is important. It also seems a little unrealistic when all of the problems are fixed at once.
Try to think of the climax as a large portion of the book, rather than simply as a chapter. Try to wrap up minor conflicts first, but as each is completed, it adds a complication into the overarching plot. A brilliant example of this is the first Harry Potter book. As Harry and his friends complete each of the trials, Harry loses a companion until he is alone at the end. Use the sub-plots’ resolution to ramp up the tension of the true climax at the end. Just before the true climax occurs, if you are able to convince the reader that the main character is in the worst possible situation then they will be more likely to cheer when they overcome their obstacle.
One element that transcends all genres is the relationships that the characters share. Not all stories have a romantic plot line, but it is rare that the main character has no one that they care about. By capturing a relationship between your main character and another person will allow readers to sympathize with both to a greater capacity. Once the relationship has been established, it is time to destroy it. (This is the sadistic part of the writing process that I feel almost all writers secretly enjoy). The goal is to have your readers care so much about these people that it elicits true emotions on their part. We want them to curse our name because the main character did something horrible to their best friend/lover somewhere around the middle of the book.
When the climax is at its darkest moment, have the characters make-up or somehow save the other one. The idea is that the bonds that we feel as people can overcome anything, even if it is some evil overlord who is virtually unstoppable.
There are many more details that I want to cover such as pacing, foreshadowing, cliffhangers, and the list goes on. Since this post is getting a little long than normal I am gonna call it here and pick it up next week. I hope you all enjoyed this week’s Writing Wednesday and you all have a great day.