These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.
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CLIMAX—That point in a plot that creates the greatest intensity, suspense, or interest.
Poets (except balladeers) and non-fiction writers, sit back and relax. I’m focusing on fiction this week.
In order to talk about CLIMAX, I need to give you a passing understanding of a few other plot-related terms. Take a look at these two familiar stories, greatly simplified:
The Wizard of Oz
Exposition--Dorothy in Kansas, we meet the farmhands and Elmira Gulch
Rising Action—Dorothy’s adventures on the yellow brick road
Climax—Dorothy melts the Wicked Witch of the West
Falling Action—back to the Emerald City, use the ruby slippers
Resolution—there’s no place like home
Joseph and his brothers
Exposition—Joseph tells his brothers his dreams
Rising Action—Joseph sold, rise to power in Egypt, famine in Canaan
Climax—Joseph accuses Benjamin of theft
Falling Action—search of sacks, true identity revealed
Resolution—a family reunion
Here’s a visual representation of the structure of a typical short story, for you visual learners:
And here’s what it more often looks like, with the climax much closer to the end of the story:
So what am I leading to? The rise and fall of these diagrams—especially the tension or conflict leading up to the climax—is what pulls a reader into a story.
The Writing challenge poses some difficulty here. In ultra-short fiction, you can’t always develop an entire plot. But I’d strongly advise you to at least do this:
Take your readers right to that moment of “greatest intensity”, and give them enough information to let them supply the ending.
A side note: Don’t try to cram too much story into 750 words. I’ve seen lots of people do it (and I’ve done it myself). I’m getting slightly off-topic here, but hey, I’m the teacher. 750 words is very small. Write a very small story. If you have to choose between plot and character, chop off some plot and develop your characters.
Okay, off my soapbox, and back to CLIMAX. Here are some Challenge entries that did a fine job of building to a point of great suspense or interest. I’ll leave it to you to read them and to pick out the climax.
Sheri Gordon’s Mrs. Mackeyhacky’s Perfect Day
Linda Schultz’s Thirteen Steps to disaster
Ann Renae Hair’s Freckles’ Fortune
Dee Yoder’s Mr. Know-It-All Takes the Lead
Angela M. Baker-Bridge’s Driving 101
HOMEWORK: Choose a commonly-known story (like the two that I used at the beginning of this lonnnnnnnnnnnng class) and tell what you think is the climax.
Link to one of your entries that has a great climax.
As always, let’s discuss!
NEXT WEEK: CONSONANCE
Well, I just watched the movie August Rush Friday, so it's fresh in my mind. I think the climax occurs when August is directing the orchestra while his dad rushes through the town to find August's mom, and his mom pushes through the crowd to see him (August).
OR perhaps in Gone with the Wind, the climax occurs when Scarlet realizes she loves Rhett and runs through the fog to find him.
Am I right, teacher?
Teach your child like he will be here forever but love your child like it is his last day.
Funny you should ask, because I was writing "On the Other Hand" simultaneously with writing this little lesson. I think it ends with the climax, with the reader providing the falling action and resolution.
Hence my 3rd diagram, which I'm sure will drive many people nuts (and that piece straight out of EC consideration). It's all good.
Jodie, I just have to add, from The Two Towers, Sam's fight with Shelob. Of course, Sam's whole adventure there at the tower of Cirith Ungol was rivetting, too, though I think that was the beginning of The Return of the King.
We may have lost our instructor, though, as I seem to recall her admission of never having indulged in this fabulous trilogy.
"There are two ways of spreading light -- to be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it." Edith Wharton
'It is better to be liked for the true you, than to be loved for who people think you are.'
"In order to realize the worth of the anchor, one needs to feel the stress of the storm." Daily Encouragement Net (Stephen & Brooksyne Weber)
Yowsers, Gerald, an explosive climax? That's an understatement!
I knew I heard horses' hooves....Thanks, Ann!
Rats, my secret is out. You're right, I haven't read them. Too many words.
Ah, your style and use of just the right volume of background will certainly keep it in consideration. When I read your story, the climax was the lateness, the internal dialogue the falling action, and the ending the available if searched while unwritten resolution.
Comparing to Wizard of Oz,
Lateness = Water on Wicked Witch
Internal Dialogue = This and that with the wizard and the people of Oz.
You just ended yours with the "nice, bubble witch" telling Dorothy, "You've always been able to go home, and if you look deep in yourself, you'll figure it out" and then floating away in the form of one of those bubbles with Dorothy standing there figuring it out, and the camera drops to her ruby slippers and fades to black, and we hear a click, and we hear "There's no place like home" and then the music, and no waking up back in Kansas.
But, that was just my take on it.
Last edited by Soren2007 on Tue Apr 22, 2008 12:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
“Get to work. Your work is to keep cranking the flywheel that turns the gears that spin the belt in the engine of belief that keeps you and your desk in midair.” ~Dillard.
These are great!!
I've got to admit that the word "steed" always makes me think of that scene in Shrek, when Donkey says, "She call me a steed!"
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