To Build A Story: The Big Bang

If you’re a writer, the climax of the story is the easy part. Right?

Just add some blood and guts, raise the body count, and throw in an explosion or two.

This is all good and exciting, which a climax should be, but it’s not always right. A climax is not just the moment of high action, big bang in the story. It’s the moment when everything in your core conflict and plotline, comes together, in a dramatic way.

Take, for instance, my original manuscript. I originally wrote the climax as the moment (spoiler) where the emperor sends his army in to crush the rebellion and enslave everyone. Which was all epic and dramatic, with bombs dropped, people screaming, bodies everywhere, and all your good usual climax stuff.

But the core conflict in this story wasn’t Falcon trying to stop the emperor and save her city from doom. The core conflict was her trying to keep her family together.

So, I kept the bombs dropping and bodies everywhere, but in order to make it a climax for her story, I had to make it the worst and most dramatic event for her personal conflict. I tore her family apart, and not all of them survive.

Do you see what I’m getting at?

It took me a long time to truly understand even these most basic elements of story. Not because I didn’t know what they were, but because I used them wrong. I thought exposition=explain, climax=boom, resolution=happily ever after (or not).

But in a talk with my CP based on agent feedback on her story, I realized that I had all of these wrong. You have to look at your own story, and pare everything else away until all you’re left with is the core conflict. Even just that took me a while. I was too caught up in grand schemes of good vs. evil and tyrannical emperors and war and politics. Yes, all of that happens, and it’s a huge part of the story, but the heart of the story is Falcon and her family, trying to survive and stay together in this hell.

Without that, the climax isn’t effective. It might be exciting, but it doesn’t work for this story.

What about your story? Is your climax right for the conflict, or is it just explosions and high body count with no meaning?