Most of us don’t think about the end of a story when we start our manuscripts. We’re so busy writing the beginning and middle, we just sort of trust that the ending will take care of itself when we get there. But D’Costa reminds us that we might be able to sell this story to a reader on the strength of its beginning. But we’ll need a big, bold, satisfying ending to sell the next one. In fact, a writer’s career depends on nailing that ending.
Although it gives lip service to novels, STORY CLIMAX is a screenwriting book. Even so, there are many techniques a novelist can learn from screenwriters. If there’s one thing Hollywood is good at, it’s the big finish. Although all of D’Costa’s examples are from movies, novelists can still learn her lessons.
It’s not enough for an ending to have lots of action or the hero and heroine finally declaring their love. A writer builds up what D’Costa calls “narrative debts” that must be paid off in act three. In fact, they must be paid off with interest. Readers have come this far, and want and ending worthy of the money and time they spent on your story.
A teacher can’t really explain climax without talking about the antagonist and the stakes. STORY CLIMAX is a great primer on those two elements as well. But even if your antagonist is the most formidable opponent ever and your stakes are as high as they can be, there are still plenty of ways for the final encounter to go wrong. It can be rushed, underplayed, indirect, or the sidekicks can muck it up.
D’Costa shows why a direct confrontation between the hero and the villain is crucial, how to close off subplots before the climax, and how to avoid clichés like the “race to the airport” in the final scene of a romance. She gives many examples of stories that got it wrong as well as stories that got it right for great side-by-side comparisons.
I made the mistake of gulping down this entire book in one sitting. Ironically, I couldn’t wait to get to the end of this great book on endings. But I will be reading STORY CLIMAX again, while taking notes and consulting my own manuscript to make sure my climax is just as big and satisfying as I want it to be.
Rating: 5 stars
Pie Slices: 8 slices craft
This book is best for: advanced writers
I recommend this book.