Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Writing the Climax

Lately in school, we’re having to study maaaaany texts. Some, are awesome. Others…well…I can’t say that I am a huge fan. However, something seems to run in common with these texts: They lack a decent climax.

What is a climax exactly? Well, according to a quick internet search, it is: “The most intense, exciting, or important point of something; the culmination.”

K.M.Weiland said in one of her articles, that, “it’s the moment when the two speeding trains finally collide into a single unforgettable scene.”

Both seem to carry the same message. (Unusual for that to happen to be honest.) That probably means we should be paying attention to it. We clearly are needing to be including a climax that somewhat follows this concept. But how? What is it in a climax that makes it so good?

Now, the books we’ve studied at school do still have value for what they appear to have been designed for. They were more written as ‘art’ in which authors specifically break rules in order to make the reader question the purpose of a novel.

As a Christian writer, I feel that the purpose of my writing is to bring glory to God through the words He gives us, and to convey messages and themes in a way that makes it more relatable to the reader than simply stating them. Therefore, I do not go along with the beliefs of authors who chose to write purely to break expectations, but I am not saying that they aren’t valuable works in their own rights.

But how can one write a good climax? What is it that sets an amazing one aside from one that’s just, ‘meh’? Hopefully, I’ll be able to cover that in this post with two main points.

1. Internal Is Important

A lot of people assume that the climax is just when the plot reaches its peak. The point when the hero and the villain face each other on the rooftop of the tallest building in a city as the war goes on down below them—probably with the hero’s side losing.

But there is more.

This should be the point in which the hero has to officially take on their new way of living. This is where they have to have changed on the inside in order to make a difference and win the battle at its climax. They need to be at the height of their emotions and internal conflict at this point. Most of what makes a climax really intense is that the character is seriously undergoing this crazy change inside of them, and they are having to fight within themselves in order to win the fight externally.

A lot of writers—particularly newer ones—struggle with this. They get so caught up in the moment that they skip the internal entirely…possibly for the entire book. Now, this tends to mean that the battle wasn’t actually as epic as it should have been.

“We're our own worst enemy. You doubt yourself more than anybody else ever will. If you can get past that, you can be successful.” ~ Michael Strahan

This is fundamentally why books where the character has to overcome that internal struggle are so powerful. If you can convince yourself to go against everything you’ve always believed because you’ve finally come to terms through a lot of pain that the other way is right, you will really struggle if at the matter it matters most, you get given an option to go back to how you were before.

Let’s imagine a girl called Katie now. Katie has always run away from her problems because she didn’t want to get involved. She’s never been caught, but once she ran away and her friend was. She felt bad, and since has been stewing over her decision.

After a lot of thinking, she decided that she was going to go and face the villain and get her friend back. So she left.

Upon arriving, the villain was standing there, in front of her friend. Katie could see how dangerous this was. She was terrified. The villain then gives her the choice: Stay and die, or run away and be safe. Katie stands there for a few agonizing minutes, thinking. Her friend meets her eyes. Katie looks toward the escape. It would be so easy for her to back down.

Resolve sets in her and she chooses to stay.

Now, to be perfectly honest, those are the moments that seem to be the most powerful in books. When the character could easily give up, but they overcome that fear. Even if Katie did die at that point, it still feels right. She changed. The climax occured, and she chose the right path. In a way, that is both the climax and the resolution.

So in short, do not skip the internal.

2. Real Readers Read Realistic Writing

Explosions. Massive magic battles. The duel to the death on a tightrope. Flames cover the entire world. He drops to his knee and proposes in spite of the tragedy they’ve just been through. The court case where all that can be heard after the main character finished their speech is the soft breathing and the stilled silence of shock.

Pure epicness. And it belongs in the climax. They are all different forms of epicness, and all belong in different genres. But you want it to be there. After all, it is meant to be the intense part, ‘where the two speeding trains finally collide.’ You don’t want another part to overshadow it. It has to stand out as the most major part of the story.

However, you don’t want it to go too far.

C’mon Jess. How could you make epicness go too far? Isn’t epicness meant to be the epitome of grandness? You can’t really go too far—or too wrong—surely?

Trust me. You can.

Simple way to tell: If the climax is unrealistic, it has gone too far. Has the last living dragon in the world swooped down out of nowhere and decimated the entire enemy lines while the hero cheers and uses the chaos to defeat the villain? Not likely to happen.

What about the hero managing to shoot down the alien ship just as it was descending…blindfolded, in the middle of a chaotic battlefield, with only one point being likely to knock the ship out of the sky? Nuh uh. Still not happening.

Did the car manage to jump the span of a kilometer, only just scraping through at the last minute despite the jump being virtually impossible? The readers are going to sit back and sigh.

No one likes it when a book does this. You can see how epic it is going to be, and something huge happens! But then you sit back and frown at it because you know it can’t have happened.

This makes it look like that writer was being lazy. Don’t know how they can win? Let’s make this magical explosion work really well and be so huge that it wipes them out.

Really, it is heaps more interesting if the hero can win in a realistic way that is still epic. Think about you climax and make sure that it is realistic according to the laws of your book. If it is, go ahead!

There you go. Those are the two main things I think need to be kept in mind when writing a climax. If you use both of these points, it should seriously help strengthen your climax and make it more interesting, as well as meaningful.

Climaxes are one of the most memorable parts of any book, so you want to make sure that your readers are satisfied with yours. If they aren’t, chances are, they won’t like the book. So be sure to put effort into that climax, and don’t let it get lost in the rest of your novel!

What do you think are the most important parts of a climax? What are some of your favorites?


  1. Ahh this was great! Very good points, and I loved your examples too. :D

    1. Yay! I'm glad you thoughts so. And phew. Good to know that they were coherent.

  2. AH, EPIC EXAMPLES AND TIPS. <333 Thanks for writing this!!! I haven't quite reached the climax in my pirate novel and so this is going to be SUPER helpful. :-D

      Welks! I had a lot of fun writing it, and yaaay, glad to be helpful!

  3. Steward of the Pen4 September 2018 at 13:24

    Thanks, Jess! Very helpful!

    I love it when you expect some sort of epic climax, but an even more epic twist shows up that makes you choke, "Wait! What? No!" My favorite climaxes are the ones where the character finally gathers the strength and courage they need to fight to the end and win, but not without a bitter cost, leaving you heartbroken but knowing all was well and that it couldn't have possibly ended a better way.

    *nods slowly* Yup. The Wingfeather Saga wins again.

  4. Yay! Glad to be helpful.

    Yesss, so cool. *happy claps* Those always win a place in my list of brilliant.

    AGREED. Those arcs are so amazing and powerful and ahhhhh, love them to pieces. <333

    Wingfeather Saga. Oh man. </3 Best books. So good. Still recovering.