I've used the terms 'climactic chapters' and 'climactic events' a lot in this series. We're now entering that territory.
The first time I wrote a book it was a surprise to me that the climactic events didn't start in those final pages when everything was drawing to a close, but rather, several thousand words earlier.
Reading Techniques of the Selling Writer (no, they don't pay me to keep plugging that book - I just found it SO useful) helped me to understand how and when the actual end occurs.
So, here we are. The beginning of the end. And even though there's thousands of words left to go, we're on the uphill march to victory (I hope).
What's the first element of your ending?
Not just any old, run-of-the-mill crisis, mind you. This isn't just a delay to the protagonist's plan. It isn't just a complication. This a knock-down, drag out, change-the-feature-of-the-landscape kind of crisis.
Depending on your genre, this kind of crisis could be anything from an overprotective parent showing up, to a psychopath with a nuclear bomb threatening to bust the globe open like an overripe melon.
The problem isn't important - how your protagonist feels about it, is. Because this crisis MUST achieve three things:
1. It must make the current state of affairs untenable. The protagonist and other major players must be forced to act and act fast because things literally can't go on as they are.
2. It must narrow the field of options. Ideally in the grand, breathless, climactic moment we want to see your protagonist left with only two options - good or bad, right or wrong, yes or no. The crisis should go a long way to eradicating most (if not all) the options available.
3. It must be unexpected, unavoidable, and preferably life-threatening.
An excellent example of a crisis is in The Hunger Games. ***Spoiler Alert*** Suzanne Collins did a great job of creating a crisis that appeared to be climactic - Katniss and Peeta victorious over all the other tributes and therefore, the winners of the Hunger Games... except the Gamemakers changed the rules. Now, suddenly, Katniss and Peeta are pitted one against the other and forced to come up with a new plan for victory.
However you choose to do it, whatever your genre, make your crisis a no-turning-back moment. The beginning of the end.
Next Post: CLIMAX (Part One)
Your Turn: Can you think of any other good examples of a crisis in a novel?