What Is the Climax of a Narrative?
Every good narrative takes the reader on a journey, steadily building the story and the reader's interest. The climax is the point during a narrative when the action or conflict reaches its peak, and this point in the story leads to the story's resolution. Writing a good climax requires more than just creating an interesting conflict with lots of drama. Instead, a climax is most exciting when the narrative has a steady, increasing conflict or action that draws the reader in.
No matter how bold or dramatic your climax is, it won't capture your reader's attention if you don't create strong rising action. During the rising action -- sometimes called the exposition -- you introduce your main characters and then gradually build to a conflict. The conflict becomes interesting to the reader because the rising action makes the reader interested in the characters and what happens to them. Consequently, creating interesting characters and making it clear why the conflict of your narrative is important to your characters is a key to a good climax.
The climax itself is the point at which the primary conflict in your narrative comes to a head. If you're writing about a couple with marital problems, for example, the climax might be the moment at which they have a big fight or an evening during which one member of the couple leaves the other. In some narratives, the climax is the point at which a conflict is resolved, often through a dramatic gesture. For example, a prince might show up at a princess's house to rescue her during the climax.
Falling Action and Resolution
The falling action winds down the central conflict of a story and moves toward resolution. For example, during the falling action a husband and wife might sit down to talk about their problems after a fight. Falling action concludes with the resolution of the story, at which point the story's central conflicts are resolved. Some stories also use the resolution to address the aftermath of a conflict or dramatic action. For example, a prince and princess might get married.
Climax Writing Tips
Your climax doesn't have to be extremely dramatic or involve severe danger. Every story has a central conflict, and the key is to make this conflict seem interesting and important. The climax usually takes place more than halfway through a narrative, which means you'll have plenty of time to develop your characters. Focus on creating characters your reader has an emotional reaction to and a conflict that your reader wants to see resolved. This can make the climax -- however simple or dramatic -- more interesting to the reader.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.