<$Susan Goodwill$>

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

NaNO #20 Climax

I'm back to Nancy Kress in Beginnings, Middles & Ends.

Nancy suggests choosing a short story at least twenty pages long-then read the first four pages, write down all the expectations you have for the story. Now finish the story. Were your expectations met? Identify the climax in that same story. Analyze it. How long is it? What forces come together in that climax? Does the story have a denouement? If so, does it wrap up the plot? Loose ends? Are all characters accounted for?

For our own work, she gives us a checklist:

"The climax must satisfy the view of life implied in your story." (My stories carry a pretty wacky worldview. A straight climax doesn't do it for my reader's expectations.)

"The climax must deliver emotion. An emotionally neutral climax will disappoint readers. They should feel whatever your character's feeling. If your characters don't feel anything in particular, this is not the climax."

"The climax must deliver an appropriate level of emotion. This means that the level of drama in the climax must match the level of drama throughout your story. Too much drama will short-circuit a restrained quiet story, too little drama will seem flat in the story already festooned with murder, betrayal, war, sex, car chases or other strong action. …"

"The climax must be logical to your plot in your story. … The climactic scene must grow naturally out of the actions that preceded it, which in turn must've grown naturally out of the personalities of the characters." (Calling in Zeus or the Cavalry or a big amazing coincidence is tempting at times, but Nancy tells us to fulfill the promise of our story. As Chris Goff, author of the clever and suspenseful Birdwatcher Mystery Series, once told me, your reader has earned it!)