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I always get stuck trying to work out what the high-point of the story should be, especially when writing sci-fi/fantasy. There seem to be just a few climaxes that get recycled through this genre - not sure if this is good or bad, necessarily, but this has been my experience so far.

I'd appreciate it if someone could share resources on how to come up with something original - is there a way to do this?

If there are various methods to go about this - even if it's for a different genre, I'd appreciate your sharing how you get around this.

Just to keep within guidelines, please also share how well whatever you use works for you and perhaps for a genre if it's specific to 1 or 2. Or if you've come across something different a published author has used, would be great to get those references too please!

~ sorry everyone, only checked back now, will try to clarify ~

What I'm trying to say is that there seems to be a trend, specifically in sci-fi / fantasy, for everything to lead up to the classic battle as a climax. What I'm looking for is info of whether this is just how the genre works, or if there are different climaxes or methods of putting one together - ie, guidelines or loose "rules" that can be adapted to your story...

I really appreciate the answers I got - many thanks to you both!

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I have to admit personally I don't really understand this question. In terms of plot what the climactic event is tends to be a matter of accepted structure i.e. it's a derivation of what you are trying to say in the story. This question sounds to me like: "I have this cat, and a mat. The cat is sitting and the mat is underneath it. I'm unsure, if I put all this information in one sentence what the subject of the sentence would be". I wouldn't feel confident answering this question without reference to a contextual example. –  One Monkey Jan 6 '11 at 11:50
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@kMac - would you be able to share a snippet or outline of a story and give us a point where you are having trouble with the plot? That would be helpful. You can edit your question by hitting the "edit" link under the tags. –  justkt Jan 6 '11 at 13:23
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Rules/guidelines are the antithesis of originality. –  mootinator Jan 8 '11 at 3:08
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@jae: As I noted elsewhere, anyone has the potential to rise above the need for humbly exploring the nuts and bolts of their craft. Some people do naturally have enough talent that they can do without learning from the past. I am just a human being and as such will take any help I can get to make myself better at what I love doing. Besides I find the "theory" parts of storytelling fascinating and awe inspiring. But that last part's probably just me. –  One Monkey Jan 9 '11 at 0:42
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@jae: All I know is that I learned a hell of a lot from deciding to do a simple A to B odyssey kids story the first time I did Nanowrimo that I wasn't expecting to learn. I expected sticking to a very generic plot to make writing the story easier and it kind of did but what was left when I finished was not a standard odyssey story like Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit. I didn't go looking for the lesson. I just stumbled across it. I would just advise that people don't knock it till they've tried it. –  One Monkey Jan 10 '11 at 10:17

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The essence of a good climax starts with good conflict. You need two (at least two) forces which are going to clash with one another. These need not be warships, or wizards, or anything titanic, if you're not writing Sci-Fi. Or even if you are...remember the classics: 'Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Self' that they used to teach in school. Once you have forces moving, it's going to be a lot easier to see where they can collide and can create the climactic moment you're looking for. If you start small and subtle, you're likely to find more original climaxes than the traditional 'Battle Royale' at the Death Star/Asteroid Belt/Hidden Base/Whatever.

I refer you to Lois Mc Master Bujold's science fiction: her conflicts are almost always character-driven, and rely on the nature of people to drive them to the climax instead of technology.

The cliche' climaxes in too many movies happen when characters are insufficiently developed and faceless, and all that's left is Force A against Force B, and you don't really care about any of the individuals, only that the 'good' guys win.

So...develop your characters, define your conflict, and drive the main characters into one another at high speed. See what happens.

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this answer helped me a lot, providing guidelines and ways of looking at how to work towards a climax that I hadn't seen in quite that way before. also appreciate the referral to an author that has looked at this a different way to the stock-standard. –  kMac Jan 10 '11 at 6:21

I learnt the hard way that you need conflict, often just at a low level, for a mere scene to progress. Just something as idiotically simple as "the characters need to quietly open an old door". Here, the conflict is doing an action that would normally make sound noise as quietly as possible. How they solve that is what makes the scene.

In the same way, the overall plot needs a conflict: something to accomplish, something to overcome, something to learn. In a horribly technical way, a common-or-garden-variety plotline needs a turnaround about half-way where the protagonist discovers or learns something that changes what happens in the second half, and a climax which is the outcome of him responding to the turnaround (sometimes it is his response and the intervening story is him getting there to do it).

Yes, that is a very bald summary and requires liberal interpretation to apply it. But the reason I've described it this way is because thinking about the story this way is what makes it possible for me to think up original story points. Put another way, it makes it more character-driven. It is cliched for the hero to turn out to be the long-lost son of the despotic king. So? You know this ahead of time, but let him build up a character and nudge events a little and how he gets to the end will surprise you. In fact, it could surprise you so much that the new climax could turn out to be something entirely different. He might still be the long-lost son, but that's incidental to how he treats his friends when everyone finds out.

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really liked how you put this it ie a turnaround point with climax being the outcome of Protaganist's reaction to that. Offered a new perspective on my worn-into-a-rut kind of thinking - thanks! –  kMac Jan 10 '11 at 6:22

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