Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Essence of Rising to the Top

I must admit, today's post is a play on words.

Of course we all would like our stories to "rise to the top".

I've listed one scene from several of my favorite books. If you haven't read one or more of these fabulous titles-- take heed, spoiler alert! 

Take this challenge: what do the scenes listed below have in common?

Lord of the Rings Trilogy: Smeagol and the ring fall into the magma
Romeo and Juliet: The death of Juliet
Dune:  The betrayal of Dr. Yueh
Jack and Jill:  Jack breaking his crown
Scarlett Letter: Hester and Pastor Dimmesdale reveal themselves
Frankenstein: The death of Dr. Frankenstein
To Kill a Mockingbird:  Tom Robinson dies
Tom Sawyer:  Aunt Polly discovers Tom alive after his funeral.
Star Wars Episode 5: Luke discovery of his real father
Julius Caesar:  Mark Anthony’s speech, “Friends, Romans, countrymen..”
"Wall of the House of Usher":  The death of Usher
"Cask of Amontillado":  The last brick pushed into place
Cinderella:  The slipper fits
War of the Worlds: People realize the Martians are dying
The Great Race:  The Great Leslie beats the evil count in a sword fight
The Princess Bride:  Reunion between Wesley and Princess Buttercup in the castle.
1984:  The torture scene
The Cat in the Hat:  The fish sees Mom coming home

Quite possibly these are the most memorable scenes from their respective books.   The question is: what makes these scenes memorable?

Answer: A stunning climax. That special scene that stops the heart of the reader. 

Definition of climax: when the conflict of the plot is resolved. The climax of a story is the point where the reader knows who wins the conflict.

Like a mountain peak, the climax is distinct, crystal clear, or, while I'm employing cliches to help, as plain as the nose on your face. The idea of creating the essence of climax is to be memorable, unique, daring, inspiring, unpredictable, or bold. 
To instill a rich essence of climax, I, as the writer, must lead my reader to a pinnacle, or climax in which the journey they’ve embarked through pages can achieve no more. 
Decision is final
Problem resolved
Love is secure
No possibility of change

Even individual books within a series require a point in which the reader can subconsciously say, “I’m at the pinnacle of this story. The rest simply ties loose ends.”

Try this experiment: 
Ask a critique partner what the climax of your WIP is.  
Do they agree with you?  
Does the rising point stand out as clear as the sun in a clear sky?  
Is your climax something a reader could recall weeks later?  
Would an editor pause to slow their racing heart before turning the last pages?

Help your story rise to the top of an editor’s pile.

What can you tweak to give your WIP a memorable pinnacle?


Julia M. Reffner said...

Mary, I'm not at that point in my manuscript yet, but this makes me think about whether I've upped the ante enough and how to make my ending memorable. Thanks!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Very timely post. I'm working on plotting my new WIP and ended up having to change the climax and ending of the story. I didn't think it was memorable enough and, as you said, something people could recall weeks later. Now that I have my ending in place, I'm much more satisfied with how it's going. I hope it's memorable now!

Casey said...

Very well done! I love your examples. The climax is something that is soooo important! Too much can be a bad thing, but too little is even worse! And building up to it in a way that moves the reader, just makes me want to bite my nails. I am a very insecure writer, can't ya tell? :) Thanks Mary, excellent post!

Mary Vee Storyteller said...

Thanks for stopping by Julia. When the point comes that you finish your climax, stop back and let us know that you accomplished your goal!
We're cheering for you:)

Mary Vee Storyteller said...

Good to see you here. That comfort zone you're experiencing is a good indicator. I'm sure you'll let your characters pursuade you to tweak as is needed.

Mary Vee Storyteller said...

I'm as insecure as you. No nails left to bite :(
But I also realize that God will give that feeling of comfort zone Cindy talked about when I've tweeked the climax enough.

Sarah Forgrave said...

I love the climax in my latest wip, but I'm scared I can't duplicate it in my next m/s. Ah, the insecurities of a writer. :-)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Oh the climax! Such an important piece of the puzzle! It always makes me a bit nervous. Great post, girl!

Casey...they have these press on nails at Walmart. I hear they are easy and look great!

Mary Vee Storyteller said...

Sarah, I think your creative juices will come up with an equally dynamic climax in your next m/s. Whoot Whoot!!

Mary Vee Storyteller said...

I wonder if Casey will see your note..LOL

Sometimes I get caught up in other factors and lose focus on the importance of the climax. Writing posts like this helps to lasso my attention. :)

Angie Dicken said...

Funny you wrote this...I was just thinking last night that I need to raise the stakes on my wip's climax...and you just reminded me!

Mary Vee Storyteller said...

Fantastic, Supamom. Call it a God moment. He always knows our needs:)

Casey said...

YES I DID SHERRINDA!! LOL! Oh that gave me a good laugh. I HAVE seen those nails, but with what I do around the house they wouldn't last long! And short nails are good for typing anyway. *grin* BUT I will keep them in mind!! LOLOLOLOL