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.)

Summary

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.

Published by

Stavros Halvatzis

I'm a writer, teacher, and story consultant.

2 thoughts on “How to write the Story Climax”

  1. Good Post . The rat race that defines the living style of the 21st century dictates that instant gratification is the order of the day ( Beware the apocalypse, parents who raise there children on I pads!) The Climax really is the pay off and reward for the viewer /reader for committing there precious time to a story if it be 2 hours ( film) or 2 years ( Series)
    There is a reason why The Lion king is the one animated film that reaches every critic’s film list and takes top shelve in the DVD collection of every mother of small children – The Climax.
    A Lion cub gets framed for murder and returns to clear his name , clam his thrown and restore order to the land. This sequence of events is way the story is being retold in 2019 after a quarter century since the original film’s release. It is thanks to a strong and even likable antagonist who must face justice.
    In short : Crime and punishment are the two pillars that leads to a satisfying climax.

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