Yesterday, I wrote nearly sixteen hundred words in under an hour.
Today, I’m having trouble getting out five hundred (which is my daily minimum).
Based on the first statement, one can assume I’m not in the middle of a Forest of Trees and Things. Actually, I’ve just finished the climax, the most vital part to my story. I’d also like to claim it’s a pretty good climax, all things considered.
The climactic chapter, the showdown between the hero and the villain, is just over 3300 words, which means I wrote half of it yesterday. Prior to that, I’d written small amounts of words each day (barely making my goal).
What in the world happened yesterday?
Why is it so hard today?
I found my answer in the simple word ‘climax’.
Which part of a book do you enjoy most?
Me, I’m a little strange. I tend to enjoy the middle parts, the points where there’s plots twists and subplots and shiny new characters. For a lot of people, however, the end is the best part. The villain is as strong as she’s ever been, and the hero is at his lowest. The white-bearded mentor is dead; the Ally is trapped beneath a thousand tons of rubble (the same Ally who miraculously survived the explosion that created said rubble), and the love interest has been forced to serve under the villain’s nefarious captain.
There’s no way the Hero and his motley band of villagers can tackle this villain. After all, the author has armed her with the best of the best, enough minor villains to take over the world.
And somehow, the hero does it.
Be it through Dues Ex Machina (not advised) or through the Hero’s brilliant plan, the villain’s armies are dispersed, the nuclear holocaust is averted, the magical dragon is killed, and the villain is brought low, made the laughing stock.
The climactic showdown is often the most tense, most exciting, and most thrilling part of any novel. It’s packed with emotion, action, loss and victory. It’s the part of the rollercoaster where it plunges straight down, shoots through two loops, and then jerks to a halt in time to stop at the finish.
You, the reader, have had the time of your life. Now you’re ready to settle back and enjoy the last few chapters, the explanations, the epilogues, the endings.
And boy was that ride worth it.
Now imagine yourself as the writer. Shouldn’t be too hard to do, even if you aren’t one. Imagine writing that scene. Imagine writing how the hero dodged the dragon’s fire and claws and tail, stabbed the villain’s second-in-command through the heart, and forced the villain to surrender at the point of the sword. The valiant hero saves the girl, rescues his friend, and visits the grave of his mentor.
It’s a lot of fun to write. Whether you’re writing it out with a pen, on a computer, or on a good old-fashioned typewriter (if so, I envy you), it’s the best part to write. At last we get to watch as our hero takes down the villain. Our hands can’t move fast enough on the keyboard, the pencil can’t scratch fast enough on the page; nothing can keep up with our minds as they race. The tension the writer has built up can be seen in their posture as they lean closer and closer to the page, the keyboard, the screen. They cry a little, laugh a little more, and let out a triumphant shout as the hero says “DROP. YOUR. SWORD.”*
It’s a lot of fun. You learn to type faster than you’ve ever typed before, or you might have to learn how to decipher the scribbles that result from combining half a dozen words in your haste.
And then comes the end. Sometimes the end can be fascinating, enjoyable, and give the writer a nice warm feeling. But other times (as is my case), it’s hard to get it out, and make it live up to the previous chapter. It just doesn’t feel… right. If the climax really is that good, how can some happy ending do the despair and triumph justice?
What about your climax?
Does your climax make you sit on the edge of your seat? How many word-per-minute records have you broken as you approach this showdown?
If you’ve never been more excited, if you can’t stop, even if dinner smells fabulous, even if it’s two in the morning, even if your homework needs to get done, if you just need to get that last page done…
You’ve done it right.
*yeah this isn’t an original line.