Monday, July 16, 2012

Delivering a great story climax

I'm in the middle of a rewrite, which I admit can sometimes be a little painful. I know it's making the story better so I'm tackling it the best I can. One thing I need to tighten up is the climax. While preparing to address that scene, I went back through my notes about how to deliver a killer climax. I found some good stuff, so I thought I'd share.

Climax is key. In fact, a lot of editors, when deciding whether or not to accept a book, will read the start of the manuscript, and if they like the first 50 pages or so then they will skip to the end to see if the author can deliver in the climax. Face it--what readers say after they put your book down matters more than what they say when they pick it up. Books are judged by their final impression, not their first, and what readers tell their friends will determine where your sells go.   

Does your climax pass the test? Here's the Do's and Don'ts that I learned from some Reader Digest articles.

1) Is this Incident a titanic final struggle? Blow away your readers. No incident that precedes the closer should be more exciting.

2)Does the heroic character confront the worthy adversary? Absolutely mandatory. No exceptions. mandatory.

3)Does the heroic character learn an important lesson? Your hero’s scars cost him something, but he also wears them like badges of learning.

4)  Is the conclusion logical? Just as all that goes before should point to the closer, even if many signposts have been artfully concealed, all that flows from the decisive moment of climax should be reasonable. An ending with a twist is fine, but no tricks.

1) Does the Incident introduce new material? It shouldn’t. Everything that appears in the closer should have been set up earlier in the story. Worse yet, new material introduced by the writer rather than the hero is flat-out cheating. Readers hate that.

2) Does the Incident rely on flashbacks? Avoid them at all cost in the closer. Keep the story moving with action and dialogue.

3) Does the Closer use exposition? Explanation causes this vital incident to drag. If the heroine has to give a 10-minute lecture to show how brilliant she is, the story has failed in some way. The genius should be self-evident, both in the heroine and in the author’s work.

Bottom line--You must create a climax that surpasses any other incident in the novel in terms of action, conflict, imagery and dialogue. Blow your readers away with the height and depths of the emotions you achieve. Do it the best you can and then, if you're like me, you can always tweak and improve it in the rewrite.


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