Troubles With the Plot Climax

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musemThis post is part of a blog museum, archiving old writing from a previous blog.


I’ve written a couple stories, but I always get stuck at the climax. You know, the part where everything ties together and the big “happening” happens. The big decider of everything! At least that’s what I think it is. When I hit this climax, I write slower and slower, and I can’t keep track of the flow. It seems the more I plow through the climax, the harder it gets to tie everything together, until soon I’m intimidated by the challenge of making it work, and I end up putting the story away unfinished.

I know you’ve finished Darkstar, and there are tons of mini climaxes in Wayrift, and probably Dregiau, too.

How does working through the climax of stories work for you? And how do you not let it scare you away? Do you think I have too big of projects?

I would love to know what you have to say on the subject, because I have enjoyed your stories and mangas, and learned a lot of good ideas and info from your writing articles, particularly your character development series–and the articles about fantasy weapons ^^

Thank you for your time, even if you don’t answer the question, it’s nice knowing I can ask!


Thank YOU for the question! I really had to sit back and think about this for a little while and sort through all the climatic situations I’ve written in my stories. Wayrift and Dreigiau tend to have the most of these since Wayrift is an ongoing comic and Dreigiau is broken up into many books… each of which has their own climaxes.

While I haven’t had a lot of trouble writing climaxes for Dreigiau in the past, this year in NaNoWriMo, I plan on writing the final climax for the entire story. And I have to say, for a writing project that has gone on 7-8 years, it does appear to be a daunting task for me, too!

How am I ever going to resolve this?

I suppose that I have a few questions regarding your own work. You mention that you end up writing slower and slower and eventually just quit. Normally, for me, it’s quite the opposite — when I’m writing a climax, I know I’m working towards the “good stuff” and I’m pumped to write… I write very quickly. But that’s ONLY if I have a really good sense of how I’m going to tie everything together.

For your writing, do you feel if perhaps you are trying to sum up too many things at one time? Are you overwhelmed by the task of weaving all the plots into one central point in your story? Are you attempting to write your climax on the fly, or do you take a bit of time to map it out on paper before you sit down to the keyboard?

Here are some thoughts on this — as I don’t know what applies to you, I don’t know which will be of help. But hopefully something will be!

Map It Out

Get a writer’s notebook if you don’t have one already — a notebook you save JUST for scribbling plot points and writing notes for your stories. I have one for Darkstar (which is now retired, but existed for about 10 years!). I also have one for Dreigiau (which is considerably newer, of course).

There is no way that I could write what I write without sitting down ahead of time and brainstorming all over paper. Having a brainstorming writing partner to bounce ideas off is also very, very helpful if you can. Often, you’ll find you will talk your own plot-knots out without them ever really needing to do anything but offer a few ideas.

I start a few months ahead of NaNoWriMo (which means I need to start pretty soon!), I sit down with my notebook and ask myself a very broad question: “What do I need to accomplish during this year’s time of writing?”

Map it out on paper – what does your climax need to accomplish? Write down all the different conflicts that are hanging in mid-air. Really think about it — take it character by character if you need to.  Then decide which are super important to tackle RIGHT NOW… and which can wait until an aftermath or another point in the story to be considered… or what may never be fully resolved (life is like that).

Prioritize your story conflicts. Number them from most important to least if you need to. But get it organized and on paper so that you can visually see it and work through it.

Design your climax around the most important/interesting conflicts — identify them, acknowledge them, then decide which few are the most important or would be most logical to handle first.

Remember, climax does not equal resolution. Resolution is what comes after all is said and done. It’s simple enough… but so easy to blur the lines and think that your climatic scene must resolve the issues. If that’s the case, then you may be bogging yourself down by trying to accomplish too many things at once.

Letting the Something Happen

Climax is a result of the tension of the story — sometimes it is action, but it can also be very powerful emotion.  Don’t ever ignore the emotion! As you said, it’s a breaking point — you’ve built up and built up and now it’s come to a point where something must happen.

Let the Figments do their Something
Let the Figments do their Something

So, stand back and let the something happen. Let your figments have it all out… they’ve probably earned it. If you’ve got a clear idea of what your conflicts are (from mapping them out), don’t worry about dictating what happens. Your figments know exactly how they feel about what’s been going on and now it’s their turn to vent!

Don’t worry about what it sounds like as you write it. Just put yourself in their shoes, feel their feelings, give them the stage and let them go at it. Some of the most surprising outcomes have come  in my writing when I quit worrying about how the climax should work to resolve the issues… and simply let my figments live their breaking point with honesty, for better or for worse.

You can always edit it later.

Climaxes Don’t Have to Be Limited to One Chapter

If there’s one thing I am famous for, it’s cliffhanger endings. Sorry, readers. I know I drive you up the wall with them, but I always look for a snazzy way to finish up a chapter that keeps people asking “What’s going to happen next!”

I’ve learned that sometimes an important string of events can’t be contained effectively all in one chapter. That includes climaxes — there’s only so much climax a reader/writer can digest before we have to take a breather. But sometimes, a story really needs to touch on a string of conflicts… action leads to reaction… and a true climax causes one thing after another to play out.

It’s okay to let your climax carry over more than one chapter. If you look at Darkstar’s Chapter 11… I’d say many of those sections were actually one, long, ongoing climax that hit the breaking point for one conflict after another. It was very, very tricky to figure out how it was going to all come together — I had to spend a good bit of time mapping this ending out. But there was no way that I could have crammed all of that into one chapter effectively.

Take a moment and see if  you’re trying to do too many things in your climax in too little space. Give yourself and figments some room to breathe. You don’t need to draw it out unecessarily (this is not Dragon Ball Z). But also don’t constrict yourself and rush the climax just to earn the resolutions.

Have some fun with it. 🙂

Beware the Necron Syndrome

Who is this guy... and why am I fighting him again?
Who is this guy… and why am I fighting him again?

For those who aren’t sure of the reference, Necron was the final boss in Final Fantasy IX. That was fine… except… no one in your party, including you as the player, had ever heard of Necron or knew of his existence until the very moment you had to fight him at the end.

So… um… what sort of impact does it have when your climax is focused on a so-called plot-twist that has no emotional value to the characters at all? At that point, I was like, “Well, I have to beat this guy to see the ending. I guess I better slog through this.”

But there wasn’t really an emotional pull to winning the battle — nothing like if the final fight had been a long-time plot nemesis or established bad guy. When you get to beat up a bad guy who just really deserves it, you walk out of that fight feeling exalted! Yes! That was an awesome battle! That was such a cool climax! Finally, we took that guy down!

The same can be said of dropping a brand new conflict on the characters right at the moment of climax. Sometimes, I suppose, it could work… but only if it makes sense and is what everything in the plot was leading up to.

But often, dropping a new conflict just for the sake of a plot-twist isn’t nearly as effective as finally hitting the breaking point on the already established conflicts. It can cause more trouble and confusion than it’s worth. So watch out for it!

So in Summary, my suggestions are:

  • Map out your conflicts – get an idea of what your most important conflicts are and focus on those for your climax
  • Climax doesn’t equal Resolution
  • Let the figments do their something – let them be the one to dictate how the climax unfolds
  • Don’t squish your climax into one chapter if it needs more room to breathe
  • Don’t drop additional, unneeded conflicts on your characters at the moment of climax – it usually adds more confusion and frustration and may have little emotional impact (or even earn the opposite of what you’re shooting for)

Hope something in that helps, Stormcloud. Feel free to leave comments if you need to brainstorm further. 🙂

10 responses to “Troubles With the Plot Climax”

  1. Er . . . I’m hoping each comment, or long comments needs to be reviewed or something, because I don’t see my last one XD

    Anyway, I second Almonihah. That part made me laugh!!!


  2. (Kay, gonna split it up, becuse I’m paranoid!)

    Wow! This is exactly what I needed. Thank you, Aywren ^^ I’ll be digesting it for a while, but it’s already helped me focus my writing goals a bit. I knew that stories are made up of details, but I forgot that some details are more important than others. Prioritizing conflicts sounds like a good place to start! I reeeeeally need to write down notes when I write. THAT’ll be interesting to learn how to do. I should probably have an analytical session after I’m done writing, to record all that happened, so that I don’t have to interrupt my muse when I brainstorm.

    Your second point, “Climax doesn’t equal resolution” was interesting. I’ll have to think about that and figure out the difference between my climax and my resolution ^^


  3. Third point, that’s something I’ll have to work on. Too often my characters walk up to me (figuratively) and are like, “What was supposed to happen here again?” So they go have hot chocolate while I try to figure out what’s going on in the climax. Lazy bones . . .

    Not squishing my climax will be hard. I guess I’ll have to figure out how to balance between drawn-out and squished. Like you said, I can always edit later. I should be nicer to myself >.<


  4. On your fifth point, I forgot how much I HATE it when authors do that XD It just interrupts the story, adding unnecessary stress, and also has a tendency to amke me forget what the book was previously about anyway. I guess that’s what I have troubles with, too. When I’m writing my first draft, usually a lot of things pop up, new ideas, new sotrylines, stuff like that. And sometimes I forget important things, so when I get to the climax, I remember I forgot them (I always remember during the climax <.<), but to put them there would be like adding a necron syndrome, because nothing about them has previously been mentioned, then I get depressed because here I thought I was almost done, being at the climax and all, and then POOF, I have a bunch of foreshadowing to add. *sigh* I need to go easier on myself, I think . . .


  5. I’m not quite sure why I write slower and slower. I may be asking too much out of myself. You know what NaNogoers say, “KILL THE INNER EDITOR!” I think maybe I’m having troubles doing that at the climax. As well as prioritizing, now that you’ve pointed it out to me.

    And at the emotional part of climaxes–THAT is hard, too! Not that I don’t have emotion. I have overwhelming amounts! Unfortunately, if I let a story sit for too long, I forget the emotion, or it’s really hard to get back into it, and then the climax suffers. That’s when the story really starts going on the back burner. I keep going back to the story, trying to get back into it, but you know how it is. After you’ve read something once, it’s not always the same feeling the second time around (especially in first drafts!) I think this ties into the keeping notes thing, too. If I kept notes, it would be easier for me to remember and get back into it.


  6. So I guess here’s my problem. I need to take notes! Make a check-off list, maybe. I can even apply some of this article. XD I should prioritize my notes, probably, and I’ll probably separate the notebook into chapters, or something. Maybe I’ll buy a huge metal board with magnetic tags so I can move stuff around easily if I add/remove chapters (moving stuff around ALWAYS annoys me) Guess I need to go notebook shopping . . .


  7. Thank you so much for answering my question, Aywren! It’s already helped me a lot. Hopefully I’ll be able to get through my climaxes a bit better. I’ve decided it’s kind of like drawing for me. I have to see at least five or ten different tutorials of the same thing before I can ever even HOPE to draw it. And then I have to keep looking for new tutorials, and review the old ones–else I forget. It’s all about the different details, I guess, and I have to have a general idea of them all for some reason. Hearing other people’s experiences is the most helpful way for me to learn.

    (Talk about taking up your comment space. But, it wouldn’t let me comment otherwise! I just hope there isn’t some moderating page that I’ve spammed to death! Er, sorry in advance?)


  8. It’s no problem, Stormcloud! I thank you for the opportunity to answer your question. It helps me to know what people are having trouble with, that way I can write articles that are really what other people need to see. Be sure that if you’re having trouble with this, someone else somewhere is too!

    As you can see, your question really got me thinking. Which is good… I need to start applying these to my final chapters of Dreigiau, too.

    A writer’s notebook is a MUST. I’ve never had a story that didn’t have a notebook. Even Wayrift and Shimmer often had times when I sat down and plotted out ideas on paper. It helps to write things down, by hand preferably, because it slows your thoughts down and gives you time to really reflect on them. It also gives you something to go back to later so that you don’t miss or forget anything.

    Not to mention it makes a great thing to carry around (if you get a little one) where you can jot notes and ideas down as they come — the real world is a great place to find inspiration! So get in the habit — the moment something interesting comes to mind, write it down! I’m always telling Syn that, too, heh. 🙂


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