Fine Tuning the Story Climax

Story Climax in The Matrix

Story Climax in The Matrix

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.

5 thoughts on “Fine Tuning the Story Climax

  1. Gerhard Pistorius

    Great Post. Again such a difficult law to implement. Any story worth telling is the result of your characters experiencing inner growth. By the time you reached the climax your character must still have the same goals however must almost be unrecognizable. Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Son is one such example: The protagonist ( a little boy) is separated from his family during war time Japan. His goal is to be reunited with his family. However the things he sees changes him spiritually. By the time he achieves his goal he is still a child however he looks at the world with the eyes of a old man.

    A series I would Highly recommend is Samurai Jack. It is a textbook example of a protagonist who must experience great physical and spiritual pain before he can reach his goal.

    Summary : The more torture your protagonist endures the more satisfying your climax will be.

  2. Stephen Marcus Finn

    Thanks, Stavros. Do you think that a screenplay/stage play/novel should end on the climax, or that there should be a brief denouement?


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