Ideally, a climax should be satisfying. The Webster College Dictionary defines climax with erudite authority as “the highest point” or “culmination.” In reality, based on my own empirical observation, a climax varies according to the characters involved, the situation, the point of view, the technique, the pace, and the progression. Some examples that come to mind – not necessarily all — are the “blow-your-socks climax,” the “hang-on-to-the chandelier climax,” the “sophisticated-cool climax,” the “wow-I-didn’t see-that-one-coming climax,” the “quiet-smile climax,” and the feared “that’s it? climax.”
I know what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong. Oh, what a prurient mind you have, my dear reader! I’m talking about novel climaxes, not real life climaxes. So, please, concentrate your wandering thoughts on literature. Let me put everything in perspective for you, so you understand what I mean.
The plot progression of the modern novel typically consists of a sympathetic character facing a life-changing problem, conflict, complications, climax and resolution. As the narrative progresses, the tension escalates through its complications until the novel reaches its climax, which is the moment when the basic conflict is resolved. Study any well-known novel written during the past hundred years, and you will see this pattern. In many of these works of fiction, the tension toward the climax escalates slowly and gradually, as appropriate to the pace of life of the times.
However, we are in the 21st Century, the age of instant gratification, where slow and gradual just won’t do. Everything moves much faster now. We are all in a hurry. We click on the TV remote surfing for a program to watch and give the image thirty seconds to seduce us, or else we click again and move on. We read the first paragraph of a novel at a bookstore, and if it doesn’t hook us right away, we put it back on the shelf and try another. A similar thing happens when we read a novel. We don’t want to waste our valuable time waiting for the climax to happen. We want it now! Worse yet, when it happens, we are often left with that nagging feeling of, “Is this all there is?” We want more.
So, I argue, why not have multiple climaxes in a novel?
My new thriller, Twin Powers, to be released next month by Second Wind Publishing at the Book’Em event in Lumberton, North Carolina, is an example of the multiple climaxes novel. It has four climaxes. Let me repeat that for you — not one, not two, not three — four climaxes. Each of the climaxes builds on the one before in an attempt to leave you, the reader, exhausted and fulfilled – and ready to take a break and go sip on a glass of Mersault or Medoc. I ask you, dear reader, isn’t that one of the premises of good writing that we authors should always try to achieve: to make you feel intensely and leave you satisfied?
I believe more and more authors will begin to write multiple climaxes in their novels to satisfy this current trend. I, for one, intend to continue making my thrillers climax-loaded and, hopefully, eminently satisfying to you, the reader. In the manuscript I’m working on right now, which I anticipate finishing and publishing this year, I’m considering outdoing myself and writing five different climaxes ranging from the “quiet-smile” to the “blow-your-socks” type.
I know it will be a challenge because my new work-in-progress centers around a thirteen year old nerdy girl who runs track — but doesn’t an enjoyable and fulfilling life consist, to a great extent, of meeting head on, and overcoming challenges?