ARGUABLY the most important scene in any tale is the story climax, also known as the must-have-scene.
This scene, which occurs towards the end of the story, pits the protagonist against the antagonist in a winner-take-all confrontation. Here the stakes are at their highest, the outcome at its most uncertain, the moral premise of the story undecided.
How to improve the story climax
The question arises as to how we may improve on this crucially important scene, knowing that a failed climax inevitably means a failed story. Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself:
1. What is the primary strength of your antagonist?
2. What is the primary weakness or fear of your protagonist?
Create a scene that plays up your protagonist’s chief weakness, while highlighting your antagonist’s primary strength. Additionally, place the confrontation in a setting that enhances the antagonist’s chances of winning, while simultaneously decreasing them for your protagonist.
In The Matrix, a powerful confrontation between Neo and agent Smith takes place inside the virtual world — agent Smith’s territory where he holds the advantage. At the end of a sustained fight sequence Smith shoots Neo, and seemingly kills him. It is only when Trinity administers the kiss of love to Neo on the Nebuchadnezzar, back in the real world, that Neo recovers and is able to defeat Smith inside the matrix – the real climax of the film.
In The Nostalgia of Time Travel the antagonistic forces are a category five cyclone and Benjamin Vlahos’s guilt over the death of his wife. The climactic scene occurs when the ghosts from his past emerge from the great funnel of the storm to confront him on the shores of Mission Beach. Stripped bare if all delusion he has to decide whether he wants to forgive himself or yield his life to the fury of the storm.
The story climax is the dramatic highlight of your tale. It pits the protagonist against the antagonist in a final confrontation whose outcome determines both the moral premise and the ultimate success of your story.