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Old 10-06-2011, 08:55 PM   #1
VydorScope
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When do you climax?

OK! Get your mind out of the gutter

Anyways I am studying how stories were written long time ago where they put the climax of the conflict/action/etc near the MIDDLE of the book. Modern books it read put it near , or at , the end.

Where do you put it and why?
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Old 10-06-2011, 11:54 PM   #2
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Hey I resemble that remark. Though you did kind of set it up with your wording. Anyway I think the end is usually where most people expect to find the climax. The one exception I can think of is when the story is set up like an episode of Columbo. Then the climax scene would be at the start.
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Old 10-07-2011, 01:10 AM   #3
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Hey I resemble that remark. Though you did kind of set it up with your wording. Anyway I think the end is usually where most people expect to find the climax. The one exception I can think of is when the story is set up like an episode of Columbo. Then the climax scene would be at the start.
I'm not sure I'd agree that the inverted detective story is an exception. Isn't the denouement of such a story generally the unmasking of the perpetrator of the crime - which normally occurs at the end of the book?
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Old 10-07-2011, 01:53 AM   #4
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I'm not sure I'd agree that the inverted detective story is an exception. Isn't the denouement of such a story generally the unmasking of the perpetrator of the crime - which normally occurs at the end of the book?
Well there is a climax of a sort at the start of such stories. I mean the villain doesn't set out usually to kill someone. They are driven to it by whatever impulse and it is a flip on the traditional detective story in that we know who did it from the start. I guess in a way it could be said to have two climax points.
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Old 10-07-2011, 02:11 AM   #5
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The "how to write" books suggest the climax at the end followed closely by the resolution.
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Old 10-07-2011, 02:34 AM   #6
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A climax means you've built up tension over a periode, or just kick the story into gear as with the detective story above.

Either you need to make sure that your story has gotten some increasing momentum prior to the climax, or you need to make sure that the story keeps the high gear following the climax. If you can't do that, then you'd need a resolution shortly after.
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Old 10-07-2011, 06:08 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
Anyways I am studying how stories were written long time ago where they put the climax of the conflict/action/etc near the MIDDLE of the book.
How far back are you going? Could you give examples of this please. I'd say they might have the climactic scene about 7/8s in and spend too long making sure everybody was properly dealt with, but half? Hmm.

I wouldn't use old books as an example, unless you're writing pastiche. Modern readers wouldn't put up with the exposition and reliance on telling over showing the story. IMO.

EDIT: Actually I've changed my mind completely about this in the last thirty seconds. I'm now going to write a book where the heroine successfully drives Lucifer back from Hell, fights off the alien invasion and frees the President from the terrorists in the first chapter (by cleverly playing one group against the other... genius, I know...) then spends the rest of the book working her way through Beauty College. I am so onto a winner here.

Last edited by dadioflex; 10-07-2011 at 06:10 AM.
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Old 10-07-2011, 06:36 AM   #8
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Well there is a climax of a sort at the start of such stories. I mean the villain doesn't set out usually to kill someone. They are driven to it by whatever impulse and it is a flip on the traditional detective story in that we know who did it from the start. I guess in a way it could be said to have two climax points.
Interesting thought on it. Is it really possible to have two climax points, or are they multiple peaks, with one real climax?
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Old 10-07-2011, 06:40 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by dadioflex View Post
How far back are you going? Could you give examples of this please. I'd say they might have the climactic scene about 7/8s in and spend too long making sure everybody was properly dealt with, but half? Hmm.

I wouldn't use old books as an example, unless you're writing pastiche. Modern readers wouldn't put up with the exposition and reliance on telling over showing the story. IMO.
.
Was a lecture I had for my class in grad school goes, looking at literary methods of older stuff... as in 1000-1500 B.C. kind of older. One of hem was to have the conflict climax near middle, then fall off with resolution of conflict being somewhat anti-climatic towards the end.

Just made me wonder if any of that kind of thing still happens today.
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Old 10-07-2011, 06:53 AM   #10
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Just made me wonder if any of that kind of thing still happens today.
This is almost what happens in LotR.
Spoiler:
The ring is destroyed
in the third chapter of book six, and then there's six more chapters describing the aftermath.
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Old 10-07-2011, 08:43 AM   #11
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To be honest, I don't like the climax at the end. I feel like it cheapens the ending and ends the story too abruptly. I think somewhere around 3/4th to be the best place for a climax. As mentioned above: LotR
Spoiler:
took quite a few chapters to actually end it, and even had that mini-adventure in the Shire during the aftermath.
There can still be a lot to write about in the aftermath, how some characters deal with what ever happened, how they fix something else, how they changed, etc.

For me, it doesn't even need to be the end. At times, climax could easily fit in the middle as being the action responsible for making the protagonist to try and resolve the problem instead of making the climax the part where it is resolved. Imagine a person responsible for a war gets stuck in some huge battle in the middle of the book. It would be the climax, but not the end, as that battle will make him realize how pointless or bad the war he started is, and spend the second half of the story trying to fix it. Yes, the end might not be as grand as the middle, but it can still be interesting and not have the reader go "what? this is it?" after 3-4 chapters of this huge battle reaching its peak, then have a small last chapter going "With all the action over, he sat down in his comfy chair, sipping on a cup of his favorite cheap tea. THE END"

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Old 10-07-2011, 09:28 AM   #12
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I'm not sure I'd agree that the inverted detective story is an exception. Isn't the denouement of such a story generally the unmasking of the perpetrator of the crime - which normally occurs at the end of the book?
You may not have watched a lot of Columbo; but the show (and others in the "NBC Mystery Movie" set) often presented the crime, and the killer, at the beginning. Everybody knows whodunit. Then we watch the detective trying to put the pieces together right under the nose of the killer. (The joke about Columbo was that the killer would get so tired of the detective's hounding him that they would generally turn themselves in, just out of frustration! "Oh, Jeezus! Yes, I did it! I did it! Make him stop!!")

To answer the OP, I guess I've gotten comfortable with the traditional climax towards the end, followed by a brief moment of closure to "catch our breath"... nothing long and involved, in literary terms, a short chapter.

OTOH, I also like the "you thought this was the climax" story, where the climax is literally at the end (think M. Night's movies), and you're done... if the climax is satisfying enough as it is.

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Old 10-07-2011, 11:59 AM   #13
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You may not have watched a lot of Columbo; but the show (and others in the "NBC Mystery Movie" set) often presented the crime, and the killer, at the beginning. Everybody knows whodunit. Then we watch the detective trying to put the pieces together right under the nose of the killer.
Sorry - I didn't express that very well; I meant "the detective finding out who the killer was". Yes, that's the whole point of the inverted detective story - that the reader knows "whodunit" right from the start, and we watch the detective piece the clues together. The format was invented by R. Austin Freeman - one of my favourite authors.
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Old 10-09-2011, 12:23 AM   #14
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I think Lord of the Rings is an example of the resolution being delayed too long after the climax.
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Old 10-11-2011, 05:40 PM   #15
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My current book I'm working is 20 chapters. The climax as I see it is in Chapter 18, and then there's a mini-extra-climax in Chapter 20.

Mom called me up the other day, and said "Don't drag your book out after the reader is done!" She reads cozy mysteries and she HATES long chapters after the whodunit is revealed.

The early Sherlock Holmes were huge suckers for this. The whodunit would be revealed in the middle and now let's have a whole half a book devoted to their motivation. Great when the motivation was interesting, not when not.
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