Anticlimactic Climax? (With reference to The Hunger Games)

by Lux

Hi, I've finally reached the climax of my novel. Your website has helped me a lot.

I've got this thing in my mind where the climax of the novel has to be amazing and perfect. However, I'm worried that my novel's climax is actually anticlimactic!

I've read novels before where the climax was just very bland, unoriginal and predictable. These books I'm referring to have imperfect characters that need to achieve a goal, a build up of tension, suspense and a flashy ending full of action. In fact, they 'should' make great climaxes theoretically.

But...I just finish reading those books not caring about the characters, even throughout the climax.

What makes a climax anticlimactic?
What makes a climax 'forced'?

Because I realize I don't understand the mechanics behind an ineffective climax, I'm worried my own novel has fallen victim to anticlimax.

Thank you.

Response: If you find you don't care about the characters, especially the main character, it may be that the main character's throughline has been poorly developed.

The main character should be someone the reader can empathize with, someone with an inner struggle that the reader can relate to. We care about him/her because we've felt similar conflicts within ourselves. It should also be the kind of dilemma the reader can see as genuinely perplexing. If the right decision is obvious, the reader will just think the main character is an idiot for not making it (as people often do with no less a character than Hamlet).

It's also important that, as the story reaches the climax, the reader has no idea what will happen - what decision the main character will make, if it will be the right decision, etc. An anticlimactic climax is basically one that is predictable. If the reader is pretty certain the prince will slay the dragon and get the princess - because everything seems to be going his way anyway and he has no serious inner conflict - then there's no tension in that crucial moment.

Keep in mind that the real tension is usually not the external conflict, but the inner conflict.

For example, I recently saw the
film of The Hunger Games. It doesn't have the best of climaxes, but it could have been much worse.

In that story, we have the external conflict between the kids in which we know that Katniss must eventually deal with Cato and Peeta. Of course the tension builds (via an optionlock) in which the other kids are killed one by one. However, if that had been the only source of tension, the climax would have been easy to predict (and therefore dull).

What makes the climax more interesting and less predictable is Katniss's relationship with Peeta. Again, if it had been a simple love story, the audience could easily predict what choice she would make at the climax. But the relationship is deliberately left unclear. We know Katniss has a boyfriend at home. We don't know whether she actually cares for Peeta or whether it's just something she fakes for the camera, in order to survive. We also don't know if Peeta really loves Katniss or if it is a game he is playing for the same reason. (He has been duplicitous before.)

Will one or both of them kill themselves or the other? It's the not-knowing that makes the climax interesting. You want the readers to be able to see a strong case for the climax going one of two ways (either Katniss or Peeta could die) - and then give them a third possibility they didn't expect but that makes even more sense.

A forced climax is basically one where the writer forces the climax to fit the requirements of the genre or the story form in a way that seems out of step with how the characters' relationships have evolved (or not evolved) over the course of the story. It's as though the writer realized in act three that he needed a happy ending (because all action stories have happy endings, right?), so he takes a left-turn and makes one happen.

That's just lazy writing - a refusal to revise the first part of the book to fit the outcome, or a refusal to break the mold and give the story the outcome that makes sense.

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Plot Invite.

search this site the web
search engine by freefind

Celebrating our 2nd year as one of the...

 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook

NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles

"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards

"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero