The Story Climax – How to Make Your Fiction More Exciting 

This page talks about what a story climax is and how to build excitement in your stories or novels. At the bottom, you'll find a links to related pages about how to write fiction, plus the chance to take a free creative writing course.

How to have your readers on the edge of their seats

If you arrived on this web page from a Google search on "How to achieve better a climax," two comments:

  • that is in fact what I'm going to discuss

  • but I'm talking about the climax of a story.

What's a story climax?

One way to look at a story is as a clash between two opposing forces.

For example:

  • The character's temptation to steal her sister's inheritance vs. her conscience, which tells her it's wrong

  • Home team vs. away team

  • Bachelor Number 1 vs. Bachelor Number 2
Suspense comes with the reader's uncertainty about which side is going to win.

The story's climax is the definitive confrontation which determines the winner. It's when the detective and the killer finally face off in the dark basement, and the reader knows only one is going to come out alive. It's when Bachelor Number 2 bursts into the church to stop Bachelor Number 1 from marrying the bride. The climax is the moment the reader has been waiting for. After the climax, things settle down in one direction or another, and you have the story's resolution.


Tips for a powerful story climax

The climax of your story is more likely to be powerful if:

  • You've developed a convincing character or characters that your reader can care about. If the characters feel like strangers or, worse, just inventions on the page, the reader's not going to worry too much about what happens to them.

  • You've clearly established what's at stake. The climax is the moment that decides whether the things will go one way or the other. For the climax to work, the reader has to understand why it matters if the bride chooses Bachelor 1 or Bachelor 2. The reader has to believe the outcome is important.
This brings up a key point. Important themes do not equal an important story. You can write a story about saving a hamster from a cat that will matter more to readers than someone else's story about saving the world from nuclear war.

What makes the outcome of a climax matter to your reader?

  1. It matters deeply to the characters.

  2. The reader cares about the characters enough to care about what matters to them.

Other tips for the climax of your story

  • Build up to it. The reader's anticipation increases suspense.

  • Show it, don't tell it! The climax is not the time to give a quick summary of events. If you're not sure about the difference between showing and telling, read more about it here.

Your story climax - next steps

What would you like to do now?


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