13 April 2013

Searching for the Strongest Climax

I am often asked what the #1 problem writers have with plot. My answer varies, depending on the most recent plot consultation or plot workshop I've just done.

Writers often struggle with finding the exact right climax and resolution to their novels, memoirs an screenplays.

So much time and thought and writing goes into developing a compelling protagonist with a mysterious back story, deciding where is the exact right beginning of the story, how to make the action exciting and the book concept big, the details just right, the dialogue snappy, the setting exotic, the crisis disastrous.

I rarely (and I mean rarely) find a writer who has thoroughly thought out the climax and written the end quarter of the story as many times or more than the beginning.

Sure, writers bog down in the middle and thus the climax seems incredibly far away -- nearly out of reach. By the time a writer limps her way to the climax, the story is lucky to have an ending at all, much less an ending that is meaningful and different and leaves the reader satisfied and wanting more.

The end of a romance novel, even if it is for a teen, especially if it is for a teen, is so much more than... they lived happily ever after. You have been so careful not to use cliched phrases, metaphors, settings and have worked to make every element uniquely your own. Why settle for a cliched ending?

When a character rises in triumph at the climax, what does she look like, act like? In the resolution, what does the world look like now that she is new and different and transformed and has shared the gift she came to share?

Take an ending you're sure has no value and turn it on its ear. See the ending from a different angle or perspective. Write that.

Strive to give the reader something new and fresh and miraculous...

The Story End 
That fabulous beginning of your story and that wild twist in the middle do not count nearly as much as to a reader as the end of the story. Sure, you hope she looks back and sees how everything is seamlessly tied together. In fact, what she’s going to think about first is how the story ends.

Readers and audiences are affected first and foremost emotionally by the story they read, whether the story evokes fear or anger, joy and celebration, or sadness and resignation. Connecting with readers emotionally to the point they become instinctively involved in the story is the dream of every writer. The best place to search for this emotional effect is at the climax.

Think Different
Look beyond the words and sentences and scenes to the deeper pattern of your story. Every protagonist begins a story wanting something. The real reason that she goes after what she wants never (or rarely) is her stated reason. In fact, at the end of the story the protagonist can, and often does, fail at her stated goal. The reader cares because she knows the protagonist has actually won what she wanted and all that really matters is herself. She has gained self-knowledge and because of that she has been changed and transformed.

After having all of her layers stripped away one by one as false or unreliable, the protagonist reaches the point where she either must break down and live an unlived life or stand straight and rely on herself. To do that, first she must find the self on which she can rely. This is why often in a story, the protagonist’s stated goal fades and is replaced by the real goal.

Knowing what to write where in a story with a plot allows for a more loving relationship with your writing. Whether writing a first draft or revising, if you falter wondering what comes next in a story with a plot, follow the prompts inThe Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts: Easy Exercises to Get You Writing

Today, I write.

To familiarize yourself with the basic plot terms used here and in the PW Book of Prompts:

1) Watch the plot playlists on the Plot Whisperer Youtube channel.
2) Read The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master
3) Fill out the exercises inThe Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories
4) Visit:
Blockbuster Plots for Writers
Plot Whisperer on Facebook
Plot Whisperer on Twitter