Double climax

by Sierra
(West Virginia)

Question: I have been working on a novel for nearly two years. I can never seem to get it quite right. My latest version I feel very hopeful and confident about, thanks to your help in helping me to make it more attractive and emotionally powerful. However, I've come to the climax, where the character has to decide between going for their goal or saving an organization they are a part of. Ultimately they choose the goal, which I feel is the climax, but the consequence of the neglecting their organization I feel is like another climax rather than a "falling action". A double climax I think would be too much emotion in one story, but I'm not sure how to make the second "climax" less than what it is to make it seem like mere falling action without making a cliffhanger. What is your idea to avoid this?

Btw, amazing advice. Thank you very much for taking the time to put it all together on here.

Answer: Thanks for the kind comments. I'm glad you've found this site helpful.

I don't know if this applies to your story (not having the manuscript in front of me), but the climax in some stories is somewhat stretched out.

Instead of a tense situation in which the protagonist makes his choice and that choice instantly saves the day (or not), the climax is broken up into a sequence. First we get the tense situation or the black moment where everything seems impossible and the hero realizes that his approach won't work, so he runs away. Then he reflects his actions or something forces him to realize what will happen if he doesn't rise to the occasion (the consequence). This makes him finally decide to dispense with whatever has held him back and to try a different approach. After this, we have a scene where he returns and uses his new approach to win the day.

In effect, this method makes the main character's 3rd signpost, his personal climax, distinct from the overall story's 3rd signpost, the traditional climax (which would be the black moment).

The scene where the hero starts to win is part of the falling action or unraveling, but don't let the name fool you. It was called "falling action" because in tragedies that's where the hero starts losing, falling down the slope of success. In a story where the hero wins, the opposite is true. This is the moment when the hero starts winning, so the emotional tone is more exciting and uplifting. It's where the reader (or, in films, a minor character) is inclined to raise a fist and shout, "Yes!"

Comments for Double climax

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Aug 21, 2011
This is the same Sierra
by: Sierra

Ah, that makes much sense. Thank you for your reply and advice. I do think I can apply that to my story, but to make sure it can reach it's full potential, I'd like to dig just a tad deeper if I may? To give you an idea, the character's story goal is avenging his loss (family) by killing their murderer. However, as I said, he is part of an important organization, and what leads to its downfall is some political turmoil and power struggle between a few members. The main character has been distracted the whole story by his obsession to avenge his family rather than helping to restore peace to the organization. In the end, I think I want the character to choose to avenge his loss anyway, returning to find a friend of his has been removed from the organization and targeted. He ends up fighting the leader and in the end everyone is against the leader, and he is the one booted from the organization. Like I said though, I feel like this is maybe too much climax/falling action. From what I've told you (if it's enough) what do you think?

Aug 22, 2011
Another way to look at it...
by: Glen

OK, this is why it's hard to give a precise answer without knowing the story intimately. (It's also why you should not take these responses too much to heart. Use your own judgment.)

It sounds as though the actual story goal is to cure the problems in this organization by getting rid of a bad leader. (Remember that the story goal is the goal that affects everyone.)

In Dramatica, we say that there are four parts to a problem. These are:

The symptom: what the problem seems to be.
The response: how the characters try to fix the problem
The problem: the real problem which no one recognizes at first.
The solution: the real solution which no one recognizes at first.

Given what you've just told me, it sounds like the killing of the main character's family might actually be the symptom. The response, which he thinks will solve the problem, is revenge. However, the real problem is that the organization has a bad leader, and the real solution (for everyone) is to have that leader kicked out.

That would mean the actual climax will be when the main character realizes he must change in order to address the real problem - the bad leader.

Aug 22, 2011
Again, Great Advice and Insight
by: Sierra

That clears up a lot of my problem, thank you. I think I know where to go from here. Thanks again, and have a nice day :)

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