I hope you're feeling groovy. If you're not, start writing and pretty soon you'll feel like this guy does, because writing a book is just as fulfilling as read a very good and well written book.
It is my process for each story I write to have a climax in the plot right before I end the story by giving readers closure to the dilemma that’s mentioned at the start of the book. During this climax, I want it to be like the 4th of July.
From page one until the moment of climax, my main character and my antagonist have done things in secret and in the open against each other. The tension has been building from page one and has reached the point of exploding. This is the climax, and the climax includes the battle between each opponent and should be written so the reader believes there can only be one survivor.
I know that sounds a bit extreme, especially if the genre of book you’re writing is, let’s say, a children’s book. But aren’t children extreme? Try hiding something they really like so they’re unable to find it. You can then witness them having a total meltdown. In fiction, it’s all about point of view. The climax of a book doesn’t have to be violent. If you’re writing Romance, it can be the moment when your two love interests finally come together. If you’re writing a police procedural, it can be the moment when your detective finally comes face to face with the killer he’s been hunting.
By giving the reader a climax toward the end of your book, you are giving them the moment they’ve been waiting for. Not giving them a climax and your book becomes foreplay, good at the start but unfulfilling in the end. Over these past weeks, I have mentioned tension, and conflict, and milieu, and pacing, etc. If you’ve read all the posts, you know that I have my own publishing imprint. These past two days, I had to give my business more attention than my writing. But I want to give you an example of what I’m talking about, so I’m going to use a manuscript I’ve recently come across to give you a better image of my process of climax and closure in a plot.
Just to over explain, a climax in fiction is the apex, the cap, the maximum height you reach in the plot. The plot is ongoing. It starts on page one and ends on the last page, of course. Think of a straight line with the first end marked ‘A’ and the other end marked ‘Z.’ The reason you want a straight line is because the straight line represents a straight, clear path. Also think of it this way. If a runner runs a straight, clear path there are no stumbling blocks in front of him. This is also true for a writer. If during the writing process the plot is a straight path there should be no stumbling blocks in getting your manuscript completed.
Now I want you to think about something else. I want you to imagine the moving green dot on a heart machine. It rises, dips, rises, dip. If it ever goes flat it means the heart has stopped beating and the patient has, what’s called in the medical field, flatlined. Think about that a moment, the jumping green dot and a flatline. The jumping dot means life. The flatline, of course, means death. No one wants to read a book that has no pulse. That’s first. I came across a manuscript recently and read it from page one to the end. People pay me to read their manuscripts and guide them through the process of improving their work and help make their book idea stellar. Yes, stellar. Never settle for mediocre.
Here’s what I noticed about this recent manuscript. The writing was fantastic in regards to grammar and even milieu. AND the author included several of the things I listed in a previous post of what good books should have. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get into the story and I kept asking myself why. This book actually had some of the elements I teach about, so why couldn’t the story suck me in? It was when I stopped reading to give the manuscript a rest for a moment and started working on my own manuscript that the answer jumped out at me.
The manuscript had no heartbeat. I’m sure you’re wondering what exactly I could be talking about. Before I tell you the answer, I need you to understand this first. All authors know what they’re book is about, but unless it’s written in a particular way, the reader will never understand your story the way you want them to. I hope you don’t take that the wrong way or offensively. Now, let me explain what I mean by heartbeat. The manuscript I read introduced me to several characters. These characters were then introduced to their own personal dilemmas. With so many characters facing different dilemmas, I couldn’t pinpoint what the story was about or who to focus on.
The reason this book didn’t have a heartbeat is because the way the storyline was written, the author focused solely on the dilemmas and never the characters. Because the author didn’t focus on any of the characters personal reactions to their dilemmas, I couldn’t see the characters as real people. This made me unable to express any care towards the characters. They could have died and I wouldn’t have been moved in the least. You never want to do that in fiction. You need readers to care about your characters, because as long as they care about your characters they will keep reading to see what will happen to them.
Each page I read was the same as a flat line. The characters didn’t have life and I didn’t have any life as I read. Giving your book a heartbeat can be the difference in a book that bombs and a book that is a major success. Think about movies for a moment. Most action films follow the same formula, but notice how some action films flop whereas others become blockbusters. Usually, all blockbusters thrive around the portrayal of the main character through their struggle of a dilemma. If the main character is written well and the action that surrounds them is riveting, the book or movie will have more success.
How do I know if my character and manuscript has a heartbeat? I'll know when what happens on every page of my book sparks some kind of emotion in the reader. Good books stir one or more of our emotions and this is done through the plot and through the portrayal of the characters. As soon as a reader opens a book there must be life on the first page. From there, there should be a gradual sense of heightening and once you reach its peak, you have reached the book’s climax. From page one until the end of the book, readers should have moments when they might laugh, or smile, or cry, or get scared, or become anxious. This goes in line and plays alongside what I’ve stated in a previous post. While the reader is laughing, smiling, crying, getting scared or getting anxious, they are still a detective, a sleuth trying to figure out the plot before the entire plot is revealed.
Now, let’s get back on focusing on the subject of this particular post, which is climax. Although it is my process to entertain the reader on every page, I only want to give readers one moment of climax. I want to tease them and excite them and build them up until they’re ready to explode, and after they explode have a sheer moment of euphoria, the kind where they want to throw up both arms and scream, ‘Yes, yes, yes!’ To achieve this reaction, my main character must be seen as the underdog, the least likely to win any battle, but they stay focused inside the ring and they throw calculated punches at the opponent’s weak spot, until the opponent is beaten down and my character becomes the victor over a battle they should have lost.
All people, including readers, love to and aspire to overcome obstacles. Give the reader what they want, which sometimes isn’t what the author may imagine happening in their story. But I ask again as I have before. Are we writing to please ourselves or the readers we anticipate will purchase our books, read our books and like our books? Just to reiterate on the manuscript I recently read, the entire storyline had a flat line. No climax was ever given. When I finished reading it I thought to myself if anyone else read it like it was if they would think they had wasted hours of their time. I wouldn't wish that kind of feeling on any author. The author, obviously, didn't think of getting this kind of reader response. Do you want to know one of the reasons a reader will give this kind of response? Because the author held back in the plot and developing their main characters. I'll talk more about both in the next two threads.
Until next time, keep writing! You won’t get that manuscript completed if you don’t plug at it every chance you get.
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