You know how your climax is super important? Like, the whole narrative needs to build to this moment, where everything is paid off, where your characters change, where the theme is revealed, and you want the reader to go, “OH MY GOD I JUST HAD MY MIND BLOWN?”
You dream that it’ll just flow out of you. That your right brain will take over and nail it. That all the set up, all the prep you did with the characters will guide you into a meditative state in which the plot and thematic threads will magically weave together into an explosion of emotion and insight and brilliance.
Here’s a glimpse into what REALLY happens.
Welcome to me, writing the climax of my book.
“Uh, shit.” Does she have the gun or not have the gun? Is there a cliff or is that too cheesy? What’s she wearing? Do they fight? Do they actually struggle? What kind of boots do teenagers wear? What the hell kind of railing is there (cue 3 hours of googling railings, with a stop off at PEOPLE Magazine, just to see what Meghan Markle is up to.)
Hello doggie. Want to go for a walk?
Sitting down again. What did I decide about that gun?
Shit. Did I set up that thing about the dad? Cue scrolling back, clicking on the search bar, entering the word ‘dad.’
Rewrite that dad thing. Then take 45 minutes to try to follow that dad thread to see how it develops before the climax. Wonder how my kid’s doing.
Facebook and Instagram stalk him for 20 minutes.
Print out shots of a few possible railings.
Start to panic.
Search out some Pema Chodron quotes to get me back on track.
Try again. Wonder if the whole set up is wrong. Is this REALLY the ending? Oh God, where did I go off track? What the hell is this story about????
Drink some coffee. Add sugar when it doesn’t help.
Google “Best Endings in a Novel.” Wonder if you can poach the climax of The Talented Mr. Ripley.
Wake up the next day. Rinse, repeat.
So why am I sharing the pressure cooker of my own climax writing brain with you? Because you too will have to write the ending of your book or screenplay. Obviously, I’m not some superhuman authority here. My fragile psyche is just as damaged and insecure as yours.
HOWEVER, here are some things that have helped me in the past when it comes to writing the biggest moment in my stories.
TAKE ACTION! Set a Self Control App on your computer which will not allow you to use the internet. Write the shitty version of your climax. The bad, intentionally over the top, cheesy, crap version. Write the bad lines. The cliched monologue, where everything is explained. Laugh at it when you are done. Ha ha ha ha! Print it out. Physically crumple it up and throw it away. It’s important that this not be symbolic (i.e. hitting ‘delete’) but a physical crushing of that version. Ok, you’ve got that out of your system. Now. Set a timer for fifteen minutes. Write the climax as fast as you can with as little dialogue as possible. Don’t think. Just write. Yeah, stuff will be missing. And there will still be some crud littering up the joint. But there will also be the heart of what needs to happen in this scene.
Now. It’s time for me to take my own advice.
Cue SELF CONTROL APP and…
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