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At the end of all things April 18, 2013

Posted by thejinx in enduring chaos, writing.
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Nearly four weeks ago, my edits on my next novel Enduring Chaos reached the climax of the story. I have not progressed beyond there, but not due to procrastination or lack of time to complete it. In fact, I have spent nearly every day since trying to work on it. The notes I have taken on the climax these past weeks might in fact be longer than my original outline for the entire story.

The reason it’s taken so long to try to work out this part of the story is that the climax of this novel has proven particularly challenging to manage. I’ve plotted and re-plotted it, attempted to rewrite it twice, analyzed successful climaxes in movies I like, looked up advice on the Internet for crafting the finale of a story, and spent a lot of time thinking about it, both in general and specifically for this novel.

I have never spent this much time or effort trying to work out the climax of a story, or indeed any single event in a novel. Truth be told, I thought the finale of Enduring Chaos as I originally wrote it worked both for dramatic effect and for closing out the story. But I thought I could do better.

As I reconsidered and reworked it, however, one thing or another didn’t work, didn’t sit right, or just plain dragged. Trying to juggle several very different characters, some with very limited motivations, an almost insurmountable challenge that they are up against, and character revelations and growth in a structure that created maximum tension felt overwhelming, and usually something was missed as I tried to work it all together.

So how could I get all the pieces into place? Well, a lot of it has been self speculation or discussion with my husband, who has been heavily involved with the development of this story throughout its creation, but I needed more than that as well. So, I turned to ye olde Google for advice. A simple search for “how to write a climax” turned up a number of articles and blog posts on devising the climax for a novel, with more than a bit of very useful information, things that other people have already put together more effectively and/or eloquently than I could.

See the following to get an idea of what worked for me:

Writer’s Digest: 4 Ways to Improve Plot/Climax in Your Writing

How to Write a Book Now: Plot Development: How to write the climax and ending of your novel

Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors: The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 10: The Climax

Fiction Notes: Climax Scenes: Write BIG for BIG Impact

Creative Tips for Writers: How to Write the Climax – Thursday Tips!

Allison’s Bookish Life: How to Write a Good Climax

That last one is particularly useful for those looking for alternate tips on making a more memorable climax, as opposed to the more general – but still very useful – information provided by the other articles. While one may not get a complete idea of how to write the climax of one’s story based solely on that post, it does offer some excellent hints on adding more oomph to the finale.

To all these suggestions, I will only add the following pieces of advice based on my own observations of story climaxes I have thoroughly enjoyed:

1. Things go from bad to worse until the final shining moment when everything gets turned around. The heroes can achieve a minor victory in the middle of the climax to show perspective, but it must be immediately followed up by an even worse downturn to keep the tension.

2. The culmination of the main character’s emotional journey happens at the very peak of the climax; their response to the final challenge determines the outcome of the entire story.

After considering all this advice and trying to apply it to Enduring Chaos, I at last have the climax plotted out to my satisfaction. It’s taken nearly four weeks to get to this point, but now, I have an outline of what each character is doing at all times during the climax and a three-act structure of how the actual writing will commence which is, I think, both tense and dramatic and hits all the major points that it needs to and ends up at a climactic finale. It hasn’t been easy, but it is important, and ultimately, it will be worth it.

How do you approach the climax of a story? Do you write it first or work your way up to it? What is the hardest part about writing the finale?

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