Although all stories are vastly different from each other, there is a basic formula to all storytelling that must take place. In essence, even though subject matter, characterization, setting and plot can vary immensely from story to story, every story has the same skeletal layout.

     There are four parts to every story. The first is the introduction. In this, you establish the norm; you decide what normal life is like for the characters in your story and give the reader a feel for what every day life is like in the world you’ve created. In the second segment of storytelling comes the introduction of the conflict. Here, the writer introduces the problems or problem the character is about to be faced with. The third part of the story is the climax. This is where your characters’ challenges reach their peak and the ultimate confrontation takes place. The climax is the beginning of the end… and the end of course, is the resolution… where the challenges are resolved.

     Right now, I am in mid-climax! The joint effort book I am writing with Kim Williams-Justesen has finally reached its peak. You’d think that this would be my favorite part of storytelling, but the truth is, it’s not. The climax always stresses me out and I much rather prefer the introduction because there, you can take your time and lie back to let the characters reveal themselves and their situations at their leisure.  In the climax, there isn’t room for wasted words. The climax, for me, is the most tedious part of the story because it’s so limited in its spectrum of possibility. After all, you can’t write two hundred and fifty pages leading up to a certain point and suddenly take a left turn. The climax is why readers have stuck with you, and it’s at the story’s peak that they want action, intensity and emotional potency; and after all the time they’ve invested in your story, you owe them that satisfaction.

Another reason why writing the climax is difficult for me is because it feels like goodbye. For some reason, the resolution doesn’t make me sad… the climax does. You’ve spent hours and hours agonizing over these characters. You’ve spent days and days getting to know them and understanding them on the most intimate levels. You’ve spent months trying to tell their story in a way that not only satisfies you, but also does your characters’ justice, and will hopefully keep the readers’ interest. And now… everything you’ve been building up to is reaching its peak and coming to a quick close.

In the project I am working on now, my co-author and I are writing alternating chapters and the resolution isn’t mine to tell. The character I am writing disappears and it is Kim’s character who gets the resolution. I am on my last chapter. In twelve to fifteen pages, my character Sterling Bronson, who has been in the making for over eight months, will be no more.  I am moving out-of-state in two and a half weeks, so there won’t even be any chance of prolonging the goodbye… savoring it. Kim and I have sixteen days to wrap this baby up and say goodbye to it, and this, for me, is the hardest aspect of writing.

After resolving the story, there are of course revisions. These can take days, weeks or even months, depending on the condition of the first draft. In a way, this is still spending time with the characters and the story, but it isn’t the same as that first time around, when everything was new and you were excited to see what shape it would all take.

The end of the story is sad, there’s no doubt about that, and there is only one way I know to combat that sadness, and that is to start the next one and begin the process all over again.

So needless to say… that’s what I’ll be doing!

Happy climax!

  1. Mimi Williams says:

    There is so much sadness surrounding the end of this book, and I won’t belabor this by getting into it all. You’ve already launched into your next book, and I’ll be finding mine soon. Somehow, though, I don’t think this process will ever be the same for me.

  2. Mimi… we still have about a hundred more books to write together. Thanks for reading… and writing. I will never be the same again either…

  3. Linda Bennett says:

    I hope you two get this one published, I am so anxious to read both books.

  4. I hope so too, Linda! One day, it will happen!

  5. Ariel Marie says:

    I’m very opposite, but that has a lot to do with two things: the way my projects come to me complete instead of just as ‘ideas’ (concepts, characters, premise, etc), and the fact that my growing up was internalized and not dialogue driven because of the ratio of adult responsibilities I had versus the few people I interacted with for social/interpersonal reasons. So for me, the pain in the ass part is the slowdowns of dialogue, debating which concepts need set-up or technical explanation for the likely audience that will read it, etc.

    This gets very frustrating for me because my interests and projects come from all genres and all mediums on a weekly basis. Even the people that I now talk to in a day are from all over the world, literally, and being my friends and the people that we mutually are close and know so much about each other beyond the public personas, of course they must be included in that target audience. It gets complicated.

    The other thing is that as a reader, I like writers that can mix it up a little and toss the 4-step formula out of order and still keep it cohesive. That is like stunt writing, and once you master it, you enter my literary pantheon in my mind, lol. 

  6. Good point, Ariel. Thanks for reading!

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