Comic Talk and General Discussion

CLIMAXES! - multiple, a big one, premature, delayed? What's best?
ozoneocean at 7:56PM, Aug. 10, 2015
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Talking about stories here, in comics, film, books, games, whatever.
But if you reallllly want to talk about sex…
 
Anyway, What's best? One big climax, multiple small ones, early, or delayed? How much should you work UP to a climax? What about anticlmactic events, how important are they?
 
Climaxes are really important in stories. Often you work up to them over the course of a whole series, but each episode or chapter can have them, maybe even every single page.
I find writing “up” to climaxes a bit stressful because you have a lot of preasure and expectation there. And when it's over and you've actually achieved it, it can be a bit depressing: where do you go to from there? You can feel a little lost, at least I do.
TALKING ABOUT WRITING HERE.
 
My preference in stories I read or whatsh is to have multiple climaxes, at least 2 or 3. You THINK you've got to the big one and it's all over and then BOOM, another one. That is so satisfying in a story.
 
Do you always need climaxes in stories? I don't think you do personally… there are times when things work fine without one, but it does help better with endings.
Sometimes climaxes can be TOO big. Way too much of a story can be invested in a climax, it subsumes everything, everything has to tie in with that specific story flow and that can be REALLY had to pull off. If it's not done right it can be massively disapointing. Anticlimactic.
 
bravo1102 at 3:51AM, Aug. 11, 2015
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And sometimes an author should know to leave well enough alone.  The villian is dead no coming back from the dead for the last gasp again and again and agin, oh wait there's the second-in-command turns out he wasn't quite dead either!  

What is this Monty Python with everyone “ not quite dead”?  

But then I like to give a nod to those endings with the final burst into the corpse “Just to make sure”
(see issue 5 page 17 of Interstellar Blood Beasts)
last edited on Aug. 11, 2015 3:52AM
KimLuster at 11:03AM, Aug. 11, 2015
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I think lots of modern folks have come to think of the climax as the ‘Big Finale’, like blowing up the Death Star in the first Star Wars, when really the climax occurs when stuff has been building and it finally reaches a turning point.  It can be near the end but often isn't.  It's essentially when the story truly changes…  So, the real climax of the first Star Wars, IMO, is the duel between Obi Wan and Darth Vader, culminating in Obi Wan's death.  Yes, you have more action, culminating in a Big Ol' Battle, but it's when the ‘path changed’ that the true climax happened.
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Think Shakespeare's 5-act plays, with the Climax pretty much always occuring in act 3.
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All in all they're not just important - I think they're indispensible!  I can't imagine a tragedy without one…!  You've got to build things in a certain way so when that ‘moment comes’ the audience feels it!
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It's often why sequels have a harder time of it.  They can't match the climax of the first time around…!  They have to try to escalate things in an effort to produce new tension and hopefully new and bigger climaxes, but it rarely hits as as hard.  I think the Matrix movies show that pretty well!
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You say stories don't always need climaxes…  I'm not sure I agree.  I can't imagine anything I'd call a ‘story’ (rules out documentaries, weird experimental stuff like filming people sleeping…) that doesn't have some sort of buildup and release - no matter how small in scale…  I may just google a bit and see if there is some (and I agree with the conclusions).
bravo1102 at 12:24PM, Aug. 11, 2015
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Speaking of story structure there has to be some resolution to whatever conflict there is in the story. That is the climax. Even an experimental piece claiming not to have a climax still does because it is part of the essence of story telling.  Or at least that's  what they said in my English classes in college. Even a five act tragedy with the main climax in act iii still has minor climaxes and plot resolution in acts IV and V. I can still remember doing the plot diagram of rising and falling action in literature class.
Genejoke at 2:34PM, Aug. 11, 2015
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I have real difficulty coming to a climax.
I personally fond it the hardest part of the story to write. I'm not really a fan of bigger and bigger climaxes. Take star wars for example. Episode four has a big exciting climax which is fine, don't get me wrong. Episode 5 has a great climax of sorts. The thing is it is leading to the next film.  Of course part 6 has another big climax which is mostly a rehash of the one from episode four.  
Then we have the prequels, 1. Has the big land and space battle which is okay and 2 has the big battle which is actually pretty good but again, big action.  Episode 3 though, that has the duel between an akin and obi wan, which resonates a lot more. It's not big but it's an epic duel between former friends. 
usedbooks at 4:18PM, Aug. 11, 2015
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Climaxes aren't as hard as conclusions for me in terms of writing, but they are ridiculously hard to draw. :P My writing style has multiple plot threads happening at once (which is common of other stories I watch/read), and they all come to a climax at the same time. Juggling which parts of the action to show in what order is the tricky part. I keep rewriting and shuffling scenes around. The biggest or most important arc usually needs to climax last but it's not a hard rule. My current multiple climax build-up has a couple characters facing off with a serial killer while others are making an exchange with a different (main) bad guy group for a hostage, and the lesser plot is a character going into labor just to complicate things.  
 
That's probably not what you meant by multiple climaxes, but it is something needed to bring all the loose ends and stories together. I think it's neat when stories are able to have very separate stories that somhow culminate in one climax in one location/action/scene. I've never managed it myself, but it's really neat when done well.
 
 
And then you have action movies. The best ones can amp up the action to a max for the climax, but I've seen some where the action was so steady throughout, you can't really identify a climax. Or they just keep throwing in new complications after the story climax which are lesser little scares like the one assassin they failed to kill coming back for revenge or something.
 
 
When it comes to multiple, increasing climaxes the best examples that come to mind are JRPGs. One particular game I remember for this is Dragon Quest 8. Multiple times in the game, I actually thought it was the “final boss battle” and took the usual RPG break to explore the world and finish side-quests and all that. Then I found out it was just the end of the act and moed into a more epic storyline and an expanded world – many times over. In terms of pacing, it was one of the best. (Skies of Arcadia, a much older example, but another great one for the building climaxes and expanding world. Most JRPGs follow that framework but not always successfully.)
ozoneocean at 1:08AM, Aug. 12, 2015
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Genejoke wrote:
I have real difficulty coming to a climax.
  
Same. It's these betablockers I'm on for my migraines… 
…Oh right, comics, yes… Me too. It's hard to sustain that preasure to the end. Talking writing here!
Maintaing the same level of interest and passion can be a problem. STILL talking writing.
 
I like Kim's explanation,
 
Bravo, there are some works with no climax. They just never have that big moment, or even a small one. They meander then end, or ramp up the preasure and then end but there's no climax involved. Let's call them “tantric” stories :D
 
KimLuster at 4:56AM, Aug. 12, 2015
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Ozone, do you have an example of a story you'd consider ‘climax-less’?  I'm just curious, as I had trouble thinking of one…
ozoneocean at 7:32AM, Aug. 12, 2015
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I consume a LOT of media so it can be hard to think of specific title sometimes… but from the top of my head the independant movie Lola Vs, The novel The Hunger by Knut Hamsun…
Things just go and go at the same level or ramping up till they end. It IS possible to have a story without needing a climax as part of it. It's not boring either, it can be a little unsatisfying but if the journey was ok then it doesn't matter so much.
 
Many times story climaxes can feel very artificial and unecessary, as if they're just put in to satisfy convention and have no point other than that. Artifical urgencey is imparted to the characters to resolve some useless situation just because the style demands it, when the story could have worked fine without one at all.
 
usedbooks at 8:07AM, Aug. 12, 2015
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Whodunnits have a “reveal,” which can be a climax and fits the structural purpose but not always the mood or tone (especially in a slow-paced story). Moonlighting often had a reveal followed by a climactic chase scene. Scooby Doo hada chase scene followed by a reveal. In more actiony crime dramas, the reveal causes the criminal to react. It's hard to say whether the reveal is the climax or the fight/chase/reaction. Many classic murder mysteries put action in the middle, during the investigation, but the reveal near the end is quiet and just for the “aha” fundamentally different from a climax but not at all a conclusion.

Detective Conan movies are structurally different from the anime series. The series follows a whodunnit structure with most of the action or intrigue (often no action at all) during the investigation. The movies are structured as action movies, most often with explosions at the climax (every movie has explosions, the show almost never does) and a whodunnit folded into the story to be resolved prior to climax.
bravo1102 at 12:41PM, Aug. 12, 2015
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A story that just is. There is no climax or resolution just no more to be told. Got ya.
bravo1102 at 12:57PM, Aug. 12, 2015
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In strict terms any story with a conflict, if there is a resolution of that conflict, that moment of resolution is the climax of the story. If there is no resolution or no conflict then theread is no climax just an ending. Or that is what is taught in literature classes with the diagrams of structure and even deconstructing what has no structure.  Some even say you cannot have a story without conflict. And if thar be conflict thar be a climax whether anything is resolved or it just fades to black.
bravo1102 at 3:22AM, Aug. 13, 2015
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And a day later yet another note. I was on my phone before and couldn't ruminate at length and I've done some thinking.  The climax of a story is not necesarily the big battle.  It is the resolution of the conflict and sometimes that comes before the battle.  

Look at Excalibur the actual climax of the film is the scene of the knights riding out with the land renewing itself and O Fortuna playing. The battle of Camlann is all resolution of the plot not the actual climax.  The same as Kimluster mentioned classic tragedy where the climax takes place in Act III and the plot's loose ends are tied up in Act IV and V usually with a finishing battle (as in ending battle not high point of the tale) and the death of the title character.  The climax of the book The Hobbit was actually the death of Smaug not the Battle of the Five Armies.  The battle ties up the loose ends, not resolve the conflict.  

This is a common error made by folks thinking that the most dramatic scene is the climax when the actual climax can happen before that.  Some could argue that Monty Python and the Holy Grail is climaxless without the ending battle.  It just ends without a resolution of the quest.  All of them being arrested is the resolution and climax.  Or at least that's what Terry Jones has said and he outside of Monty Python he is an historian and literature scholar.  But that is an appeal to expertise which is a logical fallacy but what better expert on someone's work than the person who crafted it and was quite aware of what he was doing while doing it?

Or as usual am I being completely wrong-headed? Remember the climax of World War II on the Western Front is agreed to have been El Alamein, not D-Day. The rest was a foregone conclusion with the Western Campaign being the denouemont.  Just like tha actual climax of the war in the Pacfic was Midway in June of 1942 a full three years before the end of the war.  More dramatic battles were to come with lots of heavy action but the conflict had been decided.  The Great Patrotic War's climax was Stalingrad no matter how much I prefer Kursk because it is more dramatic but it really was Stalingrad. The rest was delusion and forlorn hope on the part of the Axis.

It can be said that a poor story teller pours all the drama of the climax into some great explosion or battle. It's a cheap shot and another error that I am guilty of.
last edited on Aug. 13, 2015 3:30AM
KimLuster at 8:23AM, Aug. 13, 2015
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Bravo, I think you nailed as well as it can be nailed!  It's when things really CHANGE!  Yes, there could more (and even bigger) action afterwards, but it's when the story became something else is when the climax happens!  
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In a murder mystery when they learn that an unsuspected ally is the villain - the story still requires them to hunt and catch him, maybe in a dramatic fight scene, but the ‘Big Reveal’ is the main deal ;)
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In a ‘hero’s journey' type of movie, when the hero realizes his old life is no more, and he purposefully crosses the threshold and embraces his new one!  He still must defeat the Big Bad, but he now has purpose and direction!
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In a love story, what I call the ‘crisis’.  They meet and start falling for each other, maybe have some glorious passion, but then he cheats, or she does, or some other plot device threatens to derail the burgeoning love.  They then have to battle through it, with their love ‘stronger’ at the end.
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Oh and if we're doing battle metaphors: Gettysburg!! 
usedbooks at 9:44AM, Aug. 13, 2015
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Maybe what oz sees as climaxless stories is the story that has not one main conflict but many minor ones that resolve at different times. Most stories have multiple conflicts either separate or building upon one another. We can identify the story climax as the resolution of the main conflict. If there is no main conflict, only smaller ones, then you can view each resolution as a climax. Or you could say, I suppose, the story has no climax (although the stories within the story do).


The flow on the “mundane” story works better when all conflicts peak together. That's how sitcoms work most of the time.
Banes at 9:20AM, Aug. 14, 2015
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What a fantastic topic and great responses!

I was never able to use that type of story structure to write my own stories. I understood the three acts, the rising action, Climax, and falling action, but I could never apply it. It was too hard to figure out.
Finding the Save the Cat approach (Banes Method, heh heh) years later was much more useful.

A character entering a “new world” in Act 2, things getting more serious at the Midpoint, eventually bottoming out in the “All is Lost Moment”, and finally Breaking into Act 3 for a Finale made sense to me (or it did after some time and effort…I tend to learn a little slowly). So there are several big moments in a a longer story where things change.

Usually it WILL be near the end. If the plot is resolved too early, and the major question is answered, it's time to wrap things up, right? Otherwise things could get boring quick…unless the unanswered minor questions are compelling enough I guess.

It probably varies quite a bit depending on what the story is.
Very few Climaxes can resolve the plot, complete the protagonist's character arc and resolve the theme all in one moment like the destruction of the Death Star. Usually it's more spread out. A protagonist can complete their arc early before facing the final challenge of the plot.

In a Few Good Men, The character arc is complete when Tom Cruise faces his inner demons and says he's going to put Nicholson on the stand (spoiler alert!). The Climax is when he pulls the confession out of Jack a little later on, when he utters the classic line, “She's my sister! My daughter! My sister! My daughter!”

There are awesome observations in this thread - I love the stuff about the revelation in mystery stories and the idea of multiple threads coming together to resolve all the plots (several episodes of Seinfeld did that well; remember Kramer's golf ball?)

So I'd say the “climax” generally has to come near the end. Maybe not always, but generally. It's the moment where the protagonist has to use what they've learned in the story to face the final challenge. That's the most useful approach for me at least…
last edited on Aug. 14, 2015 9:24AM
KimLuster at 5:30AM, Aug. 15, 2015
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YOU CAN'T HANDLE CHINATOWN!!! ;)
bravo1102 at 6:02AM, Aug. 15, 2015
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There have been books and movies where the climax is shown first and then everything leading up to it is the story.
And others where the climax already happened and is hinted at and eluded to throughout the story but only explained at the end.

In today's looser story structure you can put it anywhere.  But I am a linear story teller so I put it towards the end.  I have considered writing and doing a whole story and then going back and changing the order but I keep shrugging my shoulders and going with linear story telling.
JustNoPoint at 6:56PM, Aug. 19, 2015
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I'm told I'm unique because I'm a multi climaxing kinda guy!
 
I love them and I want SEVERAL! In Devon Legacy the idea was to have a climax for each issue unless said issue was a 2 parter or something.
Aside from that I'd have bigger Climaxes. I want to clarify that I don't necessarily think a Climax is a turning point or a moment when something changes. It classify it as pay off. Each issue/story would produce a new sub string story that would build in the back ground till it came to the front in a climax. Like my 1st story arc would have been 30 issues. Issue 4 would have had the 1st BIG pay off for the series. Where team chosen would finally unite and join forces. Yes, Rick and Emella were not expected to actually meet Fenny and Sally till issue 4! Where it would have started off with Fenny and Rick fighting each other. Issue 3 wouldn't have even ended with them meeting yet.
 
By the end of 4 the what and why of everything would have been explained and the big bad of that issue would have been defeated by teamwork!
 
There would be some more big events in certain issues up till the mid finale in issues 14 and 15.
Issue 16 would have also been a big deal as a mid season return and the second half would kick climaxes and pay offs into overdrive as all the plot points from the 1st half would really start taking form. Till issue 30 when you'd have gotten a TON of new information, reveals, big bads galore, and etc. The season finale would have been pretty epic.
Giant Godzilla looking robot things that are controlled by the reannimated corpses of the dead. A super soldier gaining the alien armor. Rick losing a hand. Sally having some sort of trauma amnesia that prevents her from remembering anything really bad. Hearing voices. Rick's son from the future is leaped into someone and that was to be revealed. And who the mother is. Learn what the Fathums are and how they are tied to the chosen. So much!
 
So yeah, I like me some climaxes XD 
ozoneocean at 8:34PM, Aug. 19, 2015
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My chapters each have a climax because they're pretty much contained stories.
 
I've been watching a crapload of anime and they tend to have a particular pattern with climaxes (probably similar to a lot of things, but I'm just focussing on anime here):
 
1. Each episode tends to have a climax, unless it's a 2 parter, then the climax is on the second episode.
 
2. A mid series climax that resolves the tension and the small buildup from the first half of the series.
 
3. A penultimate climax that resolves the buildup and tension from the SECOND half of the series.
 
4. An ultimate climax at the end that resolves a bunch of unresolved stuff that was going on in the background that suddendly turned into a HUGE thing after the penultimate climax was finished with.
 
JustNoPoint at 5:17AM, Aug. 20, 2015
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Yep, that was pretty much going to be my formula as well. You could even look at the whole 7 seasons I'd planned and it'd apply. If you looked at each season as an episode.
It was also a thing back in 80s and 90s cartoons. Anime and cartoons from those years were my biggest influences.

It's also a thing in Dr Who and that's my absolute favorite show now. The way the endings of the seasons just go nuts is beautiful. I especially like how you won't even realize they've built up a finale then when the finale hits it's huge. David Tennant's final eps in season 4 comes to mind there. The only thing you knew was the doc was going to die somehow. There was no season build to what would happen. The season finale had already taken place. Then OH SNAP! Pulling out the big guns!

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