The Easy Way to Write a Powerful Climax

Nothing leaves a bad taste in a reader’s mouth like week-old pizza a bad ending. There’s lots of ways to write a bad climax, but most bad endings are caused by authors writing themselves into a corner, with no convenient escape through a ladder/window/trapdoor.

Luckily, there’s a simple way to increase your odds of crafting a killer climax: instead of planning from the start to the end, plan from the end to the start

What Happens When You Plan from the Beginning to the End:

Best case scenario: your story evolves organically, with progressively rising stakes, character development and creative twists, culminating in an impressive, well set-up climax.

Worst case scenario: you have some cool ideas, but once you’re three-quarters through the novel you get stuck and don’t know how to end.

Done well, there’s nothing wrong with planning chronologically (i.e. the same way readers consume your story). However, this method does run the risk of not having an appropriate ending. Why? Well, your story’s ending must be present in the middle and beginning for it to feel effective. You need to be super obvious about it, but if you want your ending to feel right, it needs to be foreshadowed earlier – which is why planning from the end is so powerful.

What Happens When you Plan from the End:

Readers read from start to beginning. As a writer, however, you can plan  in whatever order you want. By planning the end first, you know where your story must finish. This makes it easy to join the dots between the beginning and the end, creating a cohesive narrative.

Planning from the end is particularly useful in stories with strong mystery elements. By beginning with the solution of your story’s mystery, you can wrap it up, warp it and disguise it earlier in your story so that when readers discover it they’ll realise the solution was right in front of them the entire time.

Ultimately, planning from the end reduces the risk of writer’s block and helps you hint at the ending throughout the story, so that when readers reach the climax they’ll realise that, yes, this is exactly how the story should end.

What are your thoughts on planning from the end? Is it important to know the end before you’ve planned the rest of the story? Do you ever struggle to write a fitting ending? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Photo credit: doggo via Visualhunt / CC BY-ND

3 thoughts on “The Easy Way to Write a Powerful Climax

  1. Plotting (and the creative process in general) is a very personal matter to all writers, and while I would never suggest there’s a right or wrong way to tell a story — there’s only the way that works for you — knowing where a story ends when you start writing it is akin to knowing your destination before you leave for a road trip: Having a predetermined trajectory allows for detours and unexpected stops along the way and moments of inspiration that all contribute to the narrative’s plot objective and thematic agenda, rather than taking the story off course. I am a meticulous plotter… but again: That’s what works for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Couldn’t agree with you more, Sean – that’s why I titled this post ‘the easy way’ and not ‘the best way’! While everyone will have their own method for plotting, this is just something that works well for me – albiet as a means of prioritising the third act, possibly at the expense of other parts of the novel. It all comes down to finding an approach you’re comfortable with, and the goal of this article was to posit one approach. Thanks for the enganging response!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Editing Tip #6: Prioritise Macro Edits over Micro Edits – Jed Herne: Writer

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