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  1. BlitzGirl

    BlitzGirl Contributor Contributor

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    Not sure how to pace my story's climax

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by BlitzGirl, Dec 1, 2018.

    If I wanted to, I easily could jump straight into the scene that starts off the climax of my story. However...it is such an important, scary event that I would think that making it happen too soon would kill the impact. But then, if I wait too long, it may do the same thing. Then again, most of my story has been a slow build up to this event... It's really difficult to figure out. I'm fine with doing some sort of "calm before the storm" scene, but the question will be how long I should let that play out before allowing the "storm" to hit. This is the big thing I have been looking forward to writing for so long, and it means that I am almost done with this story. My first novel (at least, the first draft) will be complete if I can keep pushing forward.

    To clarify, the scene that is in question will set off a series of events that snowball into each other and lead to the emotional finale, followed by a denouement and an epilogue. For the sake of my story and plotting, I am considering the "climax" here to be the whole series of scenes/events that occur between this scene and before the denouement.

    I will answer questions if anyone has any, since I wasn't feeling like making this post all about explaining the plot of my story. There is far too much I would have to explain and it'd be a wall of text! :bigoops:
     
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  2. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Write it both ways and see which you like better. Maybe you'll like neither and think of another way to do it. You never know until you try.
     
  3. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    It sounds like you've made a lot of progress and can see the end in sight. I've thought about cutting my story short and calling it a novella just because it feels like it could go on forever. What I would do is jump right into it. You say your story has been building up to this climax. I don't see why you would need any "calm before the storm" also leading up to it. I think if you write your way into this section of your story, you'll probably end up cutting most if not all of that in revision. You've reached the peak of the mountain. You don't need to climb anymore, so to speak. It sounds like it's time for the climax and all that comes from that to unfold.
     
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  4. Mark Burton

    Mark Burton Fried Egghead Contributor

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    It depends on what type of author you are and what your readers expect. My preferred style is to have a twist at the end but to leave just enough breadcrumbs that if the reader is really awake, they could see it coming. I visualise it like a dance. I want to seduce my reader, leave them panting for more. I'm not sure I'll ever get to that desired outcome, but I can dream, can't I?
     
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  5. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Gosh, that's not an easy one, is it? I know I find pacing the most difficult thing to gauge. Not only when an event should happen, but how long you want to spend 'in real time' during the event. It's especially hard if the 'event' takes place quickly, but you've been building to it for a long time. Aargh.

    I'm afraid I don't have any tips. I WOULD say not to drag out the preparation too long, though.

    This is where beta readers are worth their weight in gold. After you get it to where you think it works, then see if betas find a problem with it. Do they feel it all winds up too quickly? Or is it like slo-mo photography? Or they were screaming 'cut to the chase, dammit' a quarter of the way into the book, and it just dragged and dragged?

    I think if you make a big big deal about what is going to happen all through the buildup, then it really needs to be a big deal when the reader gets there. But how to get that right? I don't know. I'd welcome some advice myself, or some kind of method to figure this out ahead of time.
     
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  6. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I've read lots of how-to's about pacing, but it's always about how to pace the writing itself. It's good advice. Things like short sentences speed up the pace, long sentences slow it down, etc. But that's not really dealing with the issue of how to pace the story itself. That kind of advice assumes you know when you want to speed things up and when you want to slow them down. Those tips just show you how.

    But what if you haven't figured out what the pace should be? You don't know when you should slow the story down. When should you speed it up? How do you create an end game that feels just right, and isn't rushed, dragged out, or anticlimactic?

    If anybody can point to advice about that, I'd be very interested in reading it.
     
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  7. BlitzGirl

    BlitzGirl Contributor Contributor

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    I agree, that is quite the pickle! I, too, know about how to pace individual scenes...but, to pace an overarching plot thread? Obviously I am struggling with that or else I wouldn't have been posting this topic. I'm glad I'm not the only one who has this issue! And what doesn't help my situation is that this story is VERY differently paced than any other story I've tried writing. It's way more of a slow burn, a drama, situated almost entirely in one location. Most of my past stories have been more action/adventure-oriented and moved locations quite a lot. So, the very nature of the type of story I'm trying to tell here is impacting how I view pacing. And, of course, just naturally wanting the climax to be satisfying and do what it needs to do.
     
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  8. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I'm just surprised that advice about this kind of thing is so hard to come by. A while back I raked through ALL of my how-to books, and none of them deal with this issue. And I tried hunting online, and just got advice about speeding up and slowing down the writing. And being told that sometimes you want to do that. Erm yes, but when....?
     
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  9. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    [​IMG]

    It's a pacing pickle.

    Because of your pacing pickle, get it!

    Ah ha ha ha!

    I'll see myself out, thank you.
     
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  10. Some Guy

    Some Guy Manguage Langler Supporter Contributor

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    My take is it's either balance or rythm, or holy chaos! Listen to some music for that slow build up to climax inspiration.

    Saint-Saens third symphony "Organ", possibly. Four slow movements, the last an exhalting climax. Each said to be a 'season' in his life.
     
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  11. Lifeline

    Lifeline South. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm with @deadrats . Think of your story as a polynomial curve :p

    There are draughts and there are saddles, getting higher and steeper. Every scene adds/takes away tension, leveling the curve or changing its trajectory. I don't believe it is possible to write a scene completely devoid of tension. Even scenes that are there to establish characters or setting add/take away something, because we view all of that through the eyes of the viewpoint character. This is true regardless of genre.

    By now, just before the climb to the climax, the heroes are in a draught and are finally too exhausted to fight each other anymore (or what have you. Your heroes may have solved any number of problems by now). It seems reconciliation is possible, but of course, there is this big thing looming that they have managed to avoid so far, basing any attempt at 'reconciliation' on a lie.

    I want to hit them with the big problem now, when they don't have any reserves to fall back on. They should show the reader what they are made of. There's the possibility for reconciliation, the exhaustion, a glimpsed mirrage of a future that is, at this point, of course false. A might-have-been. Which is enough to give the readers heartache and let them root for my heroes to finally settle this big problem.

    Where's the fun in allowing time to recover? :twisted:

    ETA:
    You and @jannert are not alone. I, too, have searched for stuff about this topic, but found nothing. In the end I do it like I do everything else: I wing it!
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2018
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  12. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah. Winging it with feedback, I hope.

    I have the issue in my novel, where the protagonist and his estranged brother haven't met for many years. The possibility of them meeting hangs over the whole story. In fact, it's the underlying purpose of the whole story. However, when the meeting does eventually happen—and it wasn't difficult to get the buildup right—the actual encounter doesn't go on for very long.

    It was a total bear trying to get that climactic scene to unfold at the level of pace that the buildup justified. Parts of it ran like a slo-mo film clip.

    I had to work this very hard to get it to where I think it works. But geez. I can't be the only person on the planet who experiences this kind of problem.
     
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  13. LoaDyron

    LoaDyron Contributor Contributor

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    I know what you mean. It is so frustrating and annoying when you reach that part of your story and still in doubt. However people here have given you good pieces of advice, and I will add one more. Write down the scene and ask yourself this question. What happened so far in the story? Does this make sense? Will the characters do this now? I hope this helps and good luck :)
     
  14. Alex R. Encomienda

    Alex R. Encomienda Contributor Contributor

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    I think that writing fiction is the most liberating way to organize your ideas so I don't think there is a right or wrong approach to pacing a climax.

    I'm currently going through similar issue with my novel in progress. There needs to be a climatic buildup that can be believable and still be effective. One thing that helped me was picturing an ideal form as if you were reading a film or play. If the way things happened right after each other the way you imagined it then you're on to a good start.

    I found this article while looking for myself and thought it was a little helpful. Give it a read if you'd like.
    https://www.writersdigest.com/tip-of-the-day/7-tools-for-pacing-a-novel-keeping-your-story-moving-at-the-right-pace
     
  15. BlitzGirl

    BlitzGirl Contributor Contributor

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    I actually managed to write the scene and am barreling forward to the end. I'm glad I got it written, and know that I can always change/fix it in later drafts.
     
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