The Writer’s Bag of Tricks (Part Six)

Basic Plot Structure Continued: The Climax

It’s now time to discuss our favorite part of the story: The Climax. The Climax in storytelling is exactly the same as it is in other areas of your life. The Climax is that highest or most intense point in the development or resolution of the story. It is that moment of greatest intensity. It is that scene that brings all the previous events in the story to that critical moment where the main character is about to win or lose everything. The Climax is where the outcome of the Major Complication is revealed to the reader. Note that you must know the problems that the Major Complication created for your character in order to bring that complication to a head in your climax. If the two scenes, the Major Complication and the Climax, are not tied effectively together, then you will leave your reader unsatisfied.

The Climax is Victory or Death. For Overcoming the Monster, this is the final battle scene. Your reader is not sure which side is going to win. The reader is worried that your character is going to fail. In all probability, your character will die. The reader is chewing on their fingernails as they read and they can’t possibly put the book down (If they can put the book down during the climax then you haven’t done your job). Either your character will die or they will win. If they win, then they create a new world for themselves. If they die, your story is a tragedy (think Shakespeare). Your Climax changes everything.

In Star Wars Episode IV the climactic scene is where the Rebels assault the Death Star. Luke and his friends must fly along the heavily defended trenches with the nearly impossible task of shooting a warhead into the very tiny thermal exhaust port. This exhaust port is the Death Star’s only vulnerability. Failure to get a warhead into the exhaust port means certain death for Luke, and all of his friends. Many of the fighters die trying to accomplish the impossible. The initial attempt to get the warhead into the exhaust port fails. All is lost. Finally, Luke, the only fighter left, releases his warhead and hits his target. The Death Star is destroyed. (The Rebels don’t know that Darth Vader has escaped which sets up the possibility of the next movie). The Rebels believe they can now create a new world for themselves. They won!

In the Major Complication, the Death Star destroyed Alderaan and the Rebel base that was located there. Leia is Darth Vader’s prisoner and scheduled for death. In the Climax, the Death Star is destroyed. The Rebel forces are saved. Luke has saved Leia’s life. See how the two scenes tie together? If you work out the ten scenes of your plot, then regardless of what happens in between these ten scenes, your plot will be solid. Your story will make sense. You  will have a strong beginning, middle, and end, and you will have very satisfied readers who can’t wait for your next book.

Plot Structure Recap:

  • Plot Type selection
  • The Opening Scene
  • The Point of No Return
  • The Main Complication
  • The Climax

Next time: All the Other Complications

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