Reaching Your Climax

Pardon the risqué title, but now that I have your attention, let’s discuss a “Writer’s Climax.” A writer’s climax is certainly not a new idea, nor is it my own. So, what is it? Strictly speaking it is, “One or more passages of increasing intensity, which end with a resounding event. (hopefully)” The event may fulfill the reader’s expectations or provide an unexpected perturbation, depending on the writer’s style, or an ending that fits the plot.

I am spell bound when a story has a series of mini-climaxes then ends with a mega-event. If a book has fifty chapters, I am not about to endure the long journey to the end of Chapter 50, unless I have a series of mini-climaxes to keep me stimulated.

The crescendo is the “bait” that keeps me in the game. There are so many distractions in life demanding my precious time that I have to prioritize. Television, I-pads, Cell Phones, the Internet, not to mention my writing schedule, all, are out there competing. “Hey Ron, one time buy! Hey Ron, the offer is good for today only! Hey Ron, this is free!” Pick up any advertisement. They generally include words like, “free”, “best”, “more than”, “less than”, “one time sale”, etc. Where do most advertising writers come from? I am going to let you in on a little secret. When you and I were in grade school learning to read, “See Dick and Jane Run,” little Johnny Adwriter, was sitting in the back row rearranging it to, “See Dick and Jane Sell.” All little Johnny’s in the back row grew up to be ad-writers.

Speaking about my short span of attention, I learned a lot about writing from watching TV commercials. Some are extremely well done, and none of them take more than ninety seconds of my time. They are prepared to get my attention and my money, and they do a pretty good job of it. The ones that can teach a lot to starving writers like me are those done by GEICO. Watch one! They all have a quick series of activities culminated by a twist. Frankly, I can’t wait for a new one, and gullible me I always enjoy the current ones. How happy GEICO and Johnny Adwriter must be. Those sneaky devils!

Another example comes from Gomer B. Gooblatz. Gomer is a fellow student in my class at the Virginia Beach Writers Group. He presented a chapter from his book set in 19th Century Louisiana. The scene was of a young abused slave girl working in her master’s home. “The old ‘Massa’ looked at her with his lusting eyes and spit oozing from the side of his mouth. She had seen this look many times before and knew what was in store. She had planned to run away today, and had to do it before the ‘Massa” had his way with her. She just couldn’t stand to have his dirty hands on her again. She would rather suffer death itself. Then he sat down and dozed off to sleep, presenting her an opportunity to escape. She quietly slipped out the door, across the creaky porch, and down the steps. Only a few feet away, she cringed at the voice behind her, ‘Where the hell are you going?’ As she turned she saw the lust on the grinning man’s face. Thinking quickly, she said, ‘Massa, I am going to fetch some turnips and jowls to cook you a dinner like you always like. You know, with the white turnip bottoms steaming in the green tops and the delicious smell of the cooking hog jowls rising in the air. Filled with anticipation, she heard him say, ‘Well hurry back.” In this piece the “activity” brilliantly described by the writer kept me on the edge of my seat anxiously waiting to learn if the “climax” would result in the “Massa” raping the girl or if she would escape. There was no way I was going to put that piece down until I learned what was going happen to the poor slave girl, for whom by now I had great empathy.

Every child has probably heard the story of “Little Red Riding Hood.” Perrault, the French writer of this fairytale was a master at his trade. He sets the reader up to expect the little girl to be eaten by the big bad wolf. Throughout her travel in the woods he does a great job of creating reader expectations that the little girl will be eaten. Even a five year old, can feel the empathy building. The wolf goes ahead of Red Riding Hood, eats grandma, gets in her bed and waits. In the next scene we see her visiting Grandma (The Old Bad Wolf in disguise) and asking naive questions such as, “My grandma, what big teeth you have.” Perrault lets the damsel escape and the villain dies, when a passing hunter shoots him. This medieval story has survived for hundreds of years, a testimony to the writer’s grasp of his trade. Create this kind of prose and your writing will last too.

So what is the climax of my story? I’m sorry to disappoint you, and that is the another point to ponder.

Writers will do anything to get you to read their material, including making up a “tricky” title. If your target audience is a mystery aficionado, you may want to use a title suggesting intrigue, deceit, or lies. Readers of romances, adventure, history, or religion are likely to be interested in a title unique to their genre. Think, “Newspaper Headlines,” and you’ve it!