Saturday, March 17, 2007

Celebrate Your Climax

We all know how tough it is to write a book, don't we? Man, those beginnings are hard. You have to grab your reader on the first page, hopefully the first sentence. Then you have to keep them hooked through the opening scene. And, boy, then comes the middle. That's when things start to sag (I'm talking writing here, not age). It's difficult to keep the tension, action, and interest.

Then there's the climax. Those are really hard to write. The climax has to be, well, climatic. It has to wrap up things, bring a sense of finality to the plot, closure to your theme. The bad guy gets whupped or the danger is fought through and conquered. Decisions are made; lives are changed.

You've brought your readers this far, from your opening line, through the turns and twists of the middle, right up to the end. Now it's time to tell 'em how it all erupts in a volcanic spew.


It's tempting to try to wrap it up quickly ... or to make sure you've tied up all the loose ends by re-capping those threads ... or to avoid writing the emotional, action-packed scene by glazing over the climax. If you do that, you cheat yourself and your readers.

Don't tell the climax. Always, always show the climax. Put your readers in the scene so that they're living it along with your characters. Make the climax vivid and dramatic. Use dialogue and action. Let the readers feel what the characters are experiencing. Put the readers into
the characters' heads.

This holds true whether your climax involves two men/women duking it out ... or one woman fighting against a raging tornado ... or the townsfolk rallying in support of the ousted principal ... or a man finding his inner center and refusing to commit suicide.

Whatever your climax is, it will be more believable, heart-wrenching, and satisfying if you show me, you let me live it. I want to see the chaos, feel the blows, cry over the decisions.

Don't tell me that her tears were salty. I want to taste them as they drip onto her lip. The bomb doesn't explode inside the nunnery -- if you tell me that then I've missed seeing it happen. And I do want to see it. I want to see the shrapnel ripping through the surrounding shrubbery; I want to feel the heat of the fire, smell the burning pews, hear the screams, taste the smoke filling my lungs. I want to experience the joy of running from the collapsing building, the panic of realizing someone is still inside, the terror of racing headlong back through the flames.

As a writer, you have worked so hard to get to this point in the book, don't slack off now. It's time to celebrate. This is the fun part. Enjoy the writing (and the re-writing).

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