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Jan's Master Class--CLIMAX

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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Jan's Master Class--CLIMAX

Postby glorybee » Mon Apr 21, 2008 6:22 pm

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:

Image

And here’s what it more often looks like, with the climax much closer to the end of the story:

Image

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:

Image

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.

OR

Link to one of your entries that has a great climax.

As always, let’s discuss!

NEXT WEEK: CONSONANCE
Jan Ackerson

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Postby Kristen Hester » Mon Apr 21, 2008 6:40 pm

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?
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Postby glorybee » Mon Apr 21, 2008 8:07 pm

Soren2007 wrote:I liked your entry's "climax" this week, Jan, but in light of reading this, I wonder if the falling action was your MC's internal dialogue and your resolution was your ending, which was in a way a cliff hanger. Would you have considered your story this week to end in climax, or were you presenting a style of resolution?


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.
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Postby hwnj » Mon Apr 21, 2008 9:08 pm

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.
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Postby glorybee » Mon Apr 21, 2008 9:23 pm

GShuler wrote:Here's one of mine that had an explosive climax.

http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=21452

I would say the actual climax it when the one advisor says "is lit."
The next line is actually a very rapid resolution.


Yowsers, Gerald, an explosive climax? That's an understatement!
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Postby glorybee » Mon Apr 21, 2008 9:24 pm

Anja wrote:Here I come.... Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot!

From "The Highwayman"....

Her eyes grew wide for a moment! she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him -- with her death.


I knew I heard horses' hooves....Thanks, Ann!
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Postby glorybee » Mon Apr 21, 2008 9:25 pm

hwnj wrote: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.


Rats, my secret is out. You're right, I haven't read them. Too many words.
Jan Ackerson

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Postby Soren2007 » Tue Apr 22, 2008 12:14 am

glorybee wrote:
Soren2007 wrote:I liked your entry's "climax" this week, Jan, but in light of reading this, I wonder if the falling action was your MC's internal dialogue and your resolution was your ending, which was in a way a cliff hanger. Would you have considered your story this week to end in climax, or were you presenting a style of resolution?


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.

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.
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Postby glorybee » Tue Apr 22, 2008 11:08 am

jodiebanner wrote:Biblical climaxes:

The transfiguration
God throwing Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden
The parting of the Red sea
When the walls of Jericho came tumbling down

The ultimate Climax

Jesus arriving on a white steed at the end of the Tribulation


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!"
Jan Ackerson


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