How about that climax!

on December 6, 2007

Continuing on my HEROES theme, did anyone watch the Volume Two finale on Monday night? They made up for all their problems (none of which kept me from watching the show–I think we tend to be more critical of shows we love, but that’s a topic for another blog.) To recap last weeks commentary, I felt that there was a pacing problem with the season–too slow at the beginning then too fast after FOUR MONTHS AGO. I loved the set-up–they just took a little too long. FOUR MONTHS AGO should have been episode 3 or 4, IMO. And then to make up for the slower beginning, they went hog-wild in introducing too many threads.

I’m not going to give away any spoilers this time 🙂 . . . I pegged one of the heroes dying, but the second one shocked me. Yet, it worked fabulously well, and I’m surprised I DIDN’T see it coming (okay, I actually suspected it during the last five minutes, but it was still a shocker.) And, I think I know who killed him and why, but I definitely won’t say anything other than I think the killer came from the future.

The climax was perfect. Everything in the episode–even the subplots–led to that final climax. And those I knew were heroes, true heroes, were indeed heroic.

Everything clicked. The subplots were interesting, the main subplot (with Mohinder and Sylar) set up Volume Three: Villains (yes, I’m loving THAT. Fan groups were wrong!) And the climax was not only completing this story, but setting up conflict for Volume Three. Ideal in a series.

So I was thinking about climaxes in general. In television series we tend to expect the season finale to set up the next season–but we still expect some sort of big story conclusion. In books, even in series, we expect to be emotionally satisfied with the conclusion. If the author leaves a major thread open, we’re frustrated. We don’t want to wait to find out what happens. This isn’t to say that a thread can’t be left unresolved, if it fits with the story. Sometimes, it’s the minor threads that start subsequent books. But the BIG story needs a conclusion one way or the other.

Climaxes can be unsatisfying in other ways as well. For example, they can drag on–and on–and on. Other times, they can be over so quickly you expect the dead guy to rise and have another go at the hero. Is that it? you might think.

I’ve been thinking of climaxes because of an editorial comment I got about TEMPTING EVIL. I’m getting the copyedits today, and my editor sent me some notes of things to address in the copyedits. Mostly minor things. But at the ending she asked that I expand a bit on the climax, she felt that it was over too quickly. Then I get a comment from my other editor who loved the ending and called it wonderfully “succinct.”

Hmm. Now what do I do? So I told my editor that I would look at the scene critically and figure out why she felt it was too fast. I think I know. I didn’t have a lot of set-up to the actual final confrontation. I mean, the whole book was set-up, but the actual scene did come quickly. I, personally, think the resolution is to show what’s going on AROUND the actual climax and how they all come together, as opposed to drawing out the actual climax. But I’ll know more when I get to that part.

The climax is so important to the story. We’ve all been disappointed when a GREAT book was a dud at the end, where the climax didn’t hold up to the promise of the story.

What are some of your pet peeves about story climaxes?