This is the moment you’ve been waiting for, isn’t it? The most exciting part of the story, what everything has been building up to, the part when you’re begging for a release of tension:

The Climax!

In a previous post, I discussed the predicament, the big event that leads to a burning question closely linked to genre and controlling theme. Now that the questions have been asked, they need answers.

Simply put, the climax is the answer to the question the predicament raises.

A lot of times the predicament and the answer are lumped into one phrase called the climax. But if we look closely and separate them, we see that each part can help tell if a story is working.

Let’s continue with our mystery example. Suppose the predicament raises the question, Will the bad guy go to jail? The answer is in the climax. Assuming this is a traditional mystery, he is incarcerated. What makes the climax interesting and exciting is how he gets arrested. Does he go with a struggle? Does he finally give in? Maybe he gives away all his secrets in a long monologue like a noir film. Or possibly he keeps everything close to the vest, leaving readers wondering.

This is a great place for twists, which act like a buffer zone between the question and the answer. The predicament happens, then a short series of conflicts, such as a struggle or snarky dialogue, and then the cuffs are slapped on.

While the predicament is usually one of the first things we imagine when thinking up a story, the climax can sometimes be the hardest. It seems simple: answer the predicament’s question. But to do so in a unique way takes a lot of innovation.

Remember genre? Yep, it has its place here too.

Genre guides the reader to the answer. The answer to the question of whether the bad guy will go to jail shouldn’t be “Aliens beamed him up” because it doesn’t make sense within the genre. When I see something like this, it’s a huge red flag. Usually it means the author doesn’t give enough clues, and hints will need to be sprinkled throughout the story. Sometimes it’s as easy as adding a few lines here and there. Other times it can be as daunting as a rewrite!

To find the climax of the story, make sure it fits with the genre and controlling theme. Then take a look at the predicament, usually the beginning part of this final exciting scene. If the answer to the predicament’s question is not clear, brainstorm ways to address it. Try writing out five or more situations and share them with your writing group or trusted friends. Maybe they can go Jeopardy on it and figure out what the question is. If so, you’ve got a clear climax. If not, it’s back to the drawing…er, writing board.

Be sure to check out all the requirements of a powerful story: Inciting Incident, Conflict, Predicament, Climax, and Resolution.

Still have an unclear climax or one that doesn’t make sense? Schedule a free call! We’ll work together to get you on the right track to a strong emotional connection.

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