Monthly Archives: January 2018

How to write the Story Climax

Story Climax in the Short novel - The Nostalgia of Time Travel

Story Climax in The Nostalgia of Time Travel

What is the Story Climax?

The climax is a scene, also known as the must-have scene, in which the Hero faces the greatest obstacle of all—the final confrontation with the antagonist or antagonistic forces—in which one side wins and the other loses.

The climax does the following: It resolves the main plot, it settles the theme of the story, and it addresses the transformation, or, its lack, of the Hero.

Syd Field states it more succinctly: “The Climax is the principle part of the story for which (…) all the machinery of planning and constructing has been set in motion (…).

In my short novel, The Nostalgia of Time Travel, for example, the climax occurs when the protagonist’s past collides with his present inside the eye of a category 5 cyclone in the north east coast of Australia’s Mission Beach. The protagonist, Benjamin Vlahos, has to acknowledge a crucial truth about his past in order to survive. The synchronicity between his inner and outer turmoil forms a powerful and fitting climax to the story.

The climax, then, is the highest emotional peak of your story. It also resolves the final goal of the tale. The goal that was set in Act I has proven to be insufficient, while in Act II a more appropriate goal has been determined. It is only by the end of Act III, however, that the true goal is finally revealed. The climax ends in the Hero’s achieving, or, failing to achieve this true goal. This also determines the theme of the tale: For example, self sacrifice leads to victory, or, self sacrifice leads to defeat.

In his book, Screenwriting, story mentor, Raymond G. Frensham, gives an example from Act III of Witness which shows how these elements are integrated at the climax. By the end of Act III, John Book is less concerned about his own survival than he is about the survival of the Amish community and their values (goal change). John, in choosing to put down his gun and face the antagonist unarmed, unleashes the moral power of the Amish community, which defeats the antagonistic forces (Climax & Theme: good triumphs over evil.)


The story climax is arguably the most important scene in the story since it resolves crucial elements such as plot, change in the protagonist, and theme. Structuring the climax correctly, therefore, is one of the important skills a writer must master.

Manage the character arc using traits

Jostling transformative traits in Knowing.
Jostling transformative traits in Knowing

How do you use character traits to help you manage character transformation? While it is true that certain genres such as Action Adventure or Science Fiction adopt a more plot-driven approach, others such as Romance, or Literary Fiction, are more character driven. All stories, however, require convincing characters to complement an effective plot. Managing character traits lies at the heart of this process.

Start by Defining Character Traits

Lagos Egri reminds us that character defining traits are important characteristics that define a personality in broad strokes – honesty, bravery, miserliness, nobility, steadfastness, cowardliness, and so on.

Importantly, most traits have a moral or ethical flavour. To act nobly, for example, is to act ethically, whilst to act in a cowardly manner is to be devoid of righteousness. But how does a coward become courageous, or a miser generous?

Typically, a traditional protagonist tends to have three or four positive traits and one or two negative ones. This juxtaposition is essential in creating dynamic characters who experience internal conflict because of a contrary trait: A conflicted character is inherently more interesting than a static, stable one. Character change, on these terms, involves managing the changing emphasis of these defining traits.

In an up ending story protagonists de-emphasise their prominent negative trait(s) and accentuate their positive ones. In a down ending, the opposite happens. This means that some event causes the character’s traits to realign within the hierarchy. Macbeth for example has the traits of a great Thane—courage, strength, leadership (positive), but also the traits of ambition and ruthlessness. All these traits coexist, but the negative traits are initially obscured by the positive ones. But when the conversation turns to Macbeth’s destiny to be king it feeds the trait of ambition. His ears prick up as it were. His intrigue turns into somewhat of a preoccupation. His trait of ambition climbs up along the hierarchy, affecting his actions more and more. At first, Macbeth offers token resistance, but he quickly succumbs to his ambition.

In the film Knowing, John Koestler, an astrophysicist and atheist who believes in random chance rather than Devine determinism is forced to come to terms with the idea that the future is predetermined when he discovers that data held in a time capsule buried fifty years previously accurately predicted global accidents and disasters, and ultimately the end of the world.

This eventually persuades John to entrust his son’s future to a group of alien observers who offer to take the boy, his young friend Abby, and other youngsters to another planet to ensure humanity’s survival through their progeny. As a marker of his transformation, John reconciles with his father, a priest, after many years of alienation. His defining trait of faith in cold logic of science has been overtaken by his faith in the benevolence of the aliens who he believes will secure his son’s future. This overtaking of one trait by another completes his character arc.


Trait realignment is fundamental to the growth of engaging characters.

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