Plot Part 5 – The Climax

Last time, we talked about the inciting incident— a great place to start thinking about the plot of your novel. This time I’d like you to think about the climax, which is the next plot point I think you should consider.

The climax is that point in the narrative where the conflict or tension reaches the penultimate moment. It is sometimes called the crisis point. It is the decisive moment or turning point in the storyline where all the conflict reaches its peak.

Everything that has come before in the story explodes at this plot point. The climax will help readers understand the significance of all the previously rising action and prepares them for the resolution of the conflict.

If you have already figured out your inciting incident, think about your climax next. What happens in this scene or chapter that brings your character to this climactic life or death moment? In a quest story or fantasy this may be the battle scene where your character must fight to win the prize. In a romance this is the moment where your lovers get together. In a thriller this is where the world is saved. This is the scene or chapter where the whole kit and kaboodle comes together. In many stories this is typically where the story’s hero finally confronts (or does battle with) the villain.

Now, think about how your inciting incident relates to your climax. Does it make sense that your inciting incident which forced your character into the story and the other (intended) action of the story culminates into this climax moment? If not, should you revise your inciting incident? Or should you revise what happens in your climax moment? Keep in mind that plotting your story will allow you to revise both big picture and little picture ideas before they are written. You can and should revise and edit as you go. Just because you write a few paragraphs about your climax doesn’t mean that you can’t change them. You are the creator.

Keep in mind that the climax should coincide with the big story question hinted at in the inciting incident, and so this is why it is important that you consider the relationship between the inciting incident and the climax. The climax will bring all the story’s action to an end with a bang and it shifts the story problem to the story resolution and releases the reader’s pent-up suspense.

Think of Star Wars. The climax is where Luke finally uses The Force to make the shot that blows up the Death Star. (I recommend that you watch the movie Star Wars and look for the inciting incident, and the climax, and all the rising action points because the movie has a clear, easy to understand structure which makes it easy to use and reference when discussing plot and structure in fiction—I will probably reference it often).

As you begin to think of your plot as a series of relationship steps, it may help you ensure that your novel is successful (i.e. readers will like it because it will make sense as a whole). You can also ensure that your plot meets reader expectations for the genre. Plotting your novel before you write it also help you see plot holes and make fixes before you spend days, months, years, writing your story. Work smarter not harder.

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