Plot Essentials: Climax

Photo credit: BookMama on Flickr
It's been a while since I've written a plot essentials post, but with the Inciting Incident, Point of No Return, and Darkest Hour/Dark Night of the Soul already covered, I thought it a good time to move on to the next sequential point: the Climax.

The Climax is the moment the entire book has been leading up to: when the protagonist comes head to head with the antagonist or antagonizing force. In Speculative Fiction, this often means the hero coming against the bad guy in some kind of epic showdown; in Romance, it's the Grand Gesture, where the hero or heroine has to overcome their flaw and make up for being a jerk previously. Everything hinges on this moment: will the hero overcome insurmountable odds?

Sticking with examples from the previous posts, here are the climaxes for some popular novels (and, obviously, they contain spoilers, so skip if you haven't read them!):

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling): Surprise! Harry isn't dead after all—or at least, not permanently—and now he's back and ready to take on Voldemort once and for all, while the Battle of Hogwarts rages around them. 

  • City of Bones (Cassandra Clare): Clary finds Valentine and Jace, who seems to be helping him. Valentine reveals a massive secret: in a Luke and Leia twist, he's Clary and Jace's father and they are—surprise!—siblings. Luke helps Clary fight Valentine off, but will they be able to defeat him and keep the Mortal Cup safe?

  • Divergent (Veronica Roth): Tris and simulation-controlled Four come head to head. Tris needs to shut down the simulation to save her friends, but can she do so without killing Four in the process? Or getting killed herself?

The climax, for me, is the most difficult part of writing a book—and it's the part I often dread reaching while first drafting. But with the right set-up and a sequence that gives your protagonist a significant role in the outcome (as in, no one should do the hard work for them), you'll craft a climax that keeps your readers hooked.

What are your favorite climatic scenes from books or movies?

Twitter-sized bite: 
Do you struggle to write your WIP's climax? So does @Ava_Jae—but today she's talking tips and examples. (Click to tweet)

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