All the rising action has led us to the Climax of this journey, if you would. But really, last week you learned more about Rising Action and how it affects your readers and your story. We talked about how the rising action is the beginning of your character’s journey, and a well executed one isn’t just a straight line to the climax. Giving the rising action the time to develop will help you push through the muddy middle of your novel. And all of this leads up to the climax. Which brings us to this week’s post.
What is Climax?
The climax is the point in the story where the main story problem is addressed by your protagonist. All the events of the Exposition and Rising Action build to the climax. Climax is also the highest point of emotional intensity within the story. By the time you finish your climax, your readers should breathe heavily, sweating, and thankful to have made it through that portion of your book. Okay, that may be a little dramatic, but if you have built your exposition and rising action properly, your reader will be so invested in whatever your respective climax is that they are almost experiencing it along with the characters.
The purpose of the climax is to transition your characters from their old world views to their new and solidify who they’ve become because of their journey. It also signifies to the reader that they will see the payoff of the journey they’ve experienced in the read through. Most, if not all, of your plot threads should begin to be tied up. Depending on where you look, the climax may occur at different percentages, but it’s most often expected within the last 75%-85% of the story.
How is Climax different from the Mid-Point?
The climax used to be considered the midpoint, according to Freytag’s Pyramid. But the more modern 3-Act Structure marks the midpoint as the actual midpoint of the story. So, what’s the difference, and why the change?
The story’s midpoint is the part in modern stories where the protagonist moves from the passive reactor to the story problem to the active worker to resolve the story problem. From Save the Cat: Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody to K.M. Weiland’s writing book series, the midpoint to the climax is the protagonist working to fix everything in the wrong way until they hit that point of the climax. A quick note: midpoints don’t always end up right at the 50% mark, but they fall within a 5-10% range of that mark. One movie I can think of as a great example where you know you’ve reached the midpoint is Where the Crawdads Sing. I haven’t read Delia Owens’ book yet, but my wife says the book and movies are very similar. So give it a watch if you haven’t already, or re-watch it, and tell me if you can find the midpoint in that story.
The story’s climax is something else entirely. Where the past had more time to enjoy the languishing effects of a story post climax, the modern climax is closer to the end of the story. With this approach, the climax should tie up the main story problem and close out the character’s internal problem they needed to learn. The climax should also be the highest emotional point where the readers get the payoff for reading all 300-400 pages leading up to the climax. You can think of the climax starting just before your character realizes the true plan they needed to follow all along.
Don’t forget that the midpoint and climax are two different parts of your book. Your midpoint will appear somewhere around the 50% mark with a false victory/defeat if you’re following the writing styles identified in the section above. Your story’s climax should appear somewhere around the 75%-85% mark. The side of that latter scale you fall into depends on the genre and type of book you’re writing. If you aren’t sure, consider how much time you’ll need for the falling action and resolution to close out your book. Not ready for that part yet, well don’t worry, we’ll dive into falling action next time. Thank you for reading, and as always, keep writing, keep learning, and stay fresh, my nugs!
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