TAP022: How to Write The Climactic Sequence of a Novel
So, you’ve reached the third act of your novel, and you’re wondering how to write an unforgettable climactic moment. The real secret is in the building up to this climactic moment in the third act. I remember that feeling I got when I reached the start of the third act for the first thriller that I wrote; I was so excited. This probably sounds a little dramatic, but I could almost hear the hallelujah chorus. As I’ve recently discovered reaching the end of the story, is where the real work starts, no matter how great you are at outlining. But, you’re not here for revision tips, you want to know how to write the climactic sequence of a novel.
And that’s precisely what you’re going to get.
In this episode, I will breakdown the three key elements of the story climax, so that you can write a show-stopping climactic sequence for your novel.
So, let’s get started.
About The Series
Before I dive into the writing tips, this is the eleventh instalment in my series on three-act structure. If you’ve just joined me on this episode, then, I will link the previous ten episodes below.
- TAP012, What is Three-Act-Structure?
- TAP013, Plot and Structure: The Hook
- TAP014, How to Write a Great Ordinary World Scene
- TAP015, How to Write the Inciting Incident
- TAP016, How to Write the First Plot Point Scene
- TAP017, How to Write the Rising Action Scenes
- TAP018, How to Write the Midpoint of a Novel
What is the climax of a story?
In terms of three-act-structure, the entire third act is considered the climax. Action needs to raise from the dark night of the soul scene or the seventy-fifth percent mark of the story onward. However, the climactic plot point needs to occur towards the end of the third act. This episode will focus on the crucial scenes leading up to, and including the climactic moment.
Where does the climax start?
The climax is a moment within a sequence of events that starts around the eighty percent mark of the story. And thus referred to as the climactic sequence. This sequence is made up of three key elements, a moment of recovery, the confrontation, and the climactic moment. Leading up to this sequence, something needs to happen to force the hero and the villain to face each other. This moment usually occurs within the previous scenes and thus, acts as a springboard for the climactic sequence. It goes without saying that the climactic sequence, although logical, needs to come as a surprise to your reader.
A Moment of Recovery
But, you need to bridge the gap between the dark night of the soul scene and the start of the climax with a moment of recovery for the protagonist. As highlighted in episode twenty, the dark night of the soul is the moment in your story where your hero hits rock bottom. I’ll leave a link to episode twenty below.
Nevertheless, the journey doesn’t end at this point, your protagonist needs a moment to regroup before he faces the final confrontation and the events that follow on from that point. It’s in this moment of recovery that your hero questions his choices and commitment to the larger story goal. Through questioning, your protagonist finds the strength and a dose of last minute resolve to keep going to the end. This recovery period is crucial because it reveals vulnerability, and creates sympathy with the reader.
Without this moment, your protagonist would be an unrealistic character with an unbreakable amount of resolve, thus making the climax a little less moving. What makes your hero different is he finds what he needs to move forward at the last minute, creating a more inspiring ending, and keeping the connection with the reader.
I will go into this moment within the climactic sequence in greater detail, in the next episode, especially for those of you who write within the Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense genres; but, for now, I’ll share the readers digest version. This is the moment where your hero goes up against the antagonistic force. It’s that final battle. Everything in the story is building up until this point.
To defeat the bad guy, your protagonist uses the lessons learned along the way. In a thriller or action-adventure novel, your protagonist has pieced together clues which have led them to this very moment where he’s quite literally face-to-face with the antagonistic force. It’s only in this moment of the story that the protagonist has everything he needs to go up against the villain. The protagonist can have allies to help solve the story problem, but there needs to be a moment where he acts alone. There must be something that only the protagonist can do in the final showdown.
Raising the Stakes
As your hero crosses the threshold into the final confrontation the stakes are raised, usually after a last-minute twist or surprise. Things become personal, or the stakes reach greater heights, and more people will be affected by the repercussions of the antagonist force achieving its goal.
But, not all story climactic sequences feature show-stopping gunfights, epic chases, or a fight. Large scale external conflict isn’t the only source of momentum, you can bring to the climactic sequence. Foreshadowing a layer of mystery in your story arc will add a level of tension in the third act. In other genres, the climax can be nothing more than an admission that changes everything for the hero. If you’re writing a romance novel, this is the moment the reader finally gets an answer to the will they/won’t they seesaw you’ve tortured them with on the previous 300 or so pages.
The Climactic Moment
The climactic moment is the final moment where the protagonist realises they have won, lost, or reached an impasse. It’s that moment in your story where the conflict cannot go on as it has done before. No matter how your story ends, the core conflict of the story must be resolved, in this climactic moment. Even if you’re writing in a series or trilogy, there needs to be a resolution to this story’s core conflict. I know this seems obvious, but your climactic moment, that moment your story has been building to, needs to fulfil the promise you made to the reader at the start of the story, and give this sequence a satisfying conclusion.
The three key moments you need to include in your climactic sequence are a moment of recovery, the confrontation, and the climactic moment. Now, I have an important question for you. Are you struggling to write the climactic sequence for your story? I want to hear from you. Share your experience or ask a question in the comments section below.
Thank you for listening, reading, commenting and sharing with such enthusiasm.
I’m Amelia. When I’m not hosting the Authorpreneur Podcast™️ and the Book Nerd Podcasts, I write Mystery Novels under the pen name A. D. Hay. And, I’m the author of Suspicion, the Lawn, and the Candidate.
On this blog, I help new writers to finish their first draft, prepare their manuscripts for professional editing, and when they get stuck in the first draft phase or are confused about the revision process.
Right now, I’m editing and preparing my soon to be published mystery novels, Suspicion, Duplicity, 24 Hours, and Immunity for publication.