Okay, so you’ve set up your novel well, established conflicts and turning points and twists. You’ve created allies and villains and tests. You’ve successfully navigated through the first two acts, avoiding those dreaded sagging middles . If written correctly, we’ve just come through the Protagonist’s major stumbling block—gone into that inmost cave of fear, mastered it, and emerged pretty much intact on the other side. The reward stage (a much-needed breather) is over. New insights and strengths have been gleaned that equip her to fight the supreme battle. And now, we build to the end.
So, how do you get there?
This leads us into the final act, and we still have some major steps to get through. Three in fact. For now, let’s focus on the bridge leading to the climax.
This is our turn for home—the link between what she learned and the final conflict. The character may straddle the threshold of the two worlds, but with a determined commitment to finish. The energy to do so surges up. This can come from inside (internal), or outside (external). Sometimes a counter attack comes from the villain at this point, which propels the story to its conclusion. In an action/adventure film, a major chase scene might occur 🙂
The main point here is energy. Now we pump up the action. Now we run faster, jump higher, ramp up the fight. Now we make that walk with courage toward the stage ahead. Whether literally or metaphorically doesn’t matter. Our prose itself becomes more staccato in places. The time for analysis has ended (no more waxing philosophically or pining for that lost love). We march toward the final battle with confidence, not lacking in fear, perhaps, but with the courage to face that fear, whether that be battling the giant, rescuing the child, building the final and hardest stretch of bridge, or a once-stuttering king stepping onstage to face the microphone.
Here is not the time to learn of betrayal—that happened back in Act Two—before our hero descended into himself to face his fears. Rather, here his allies staunchly have his back, and although some of those may get sacrificed in the final conflict to come, deception is long over.
We know the risks now, without the author telling us about them. Everybody knows the stakes—heroes, villains, readers.
This section must move. In the entire novel, no part surges ahead more quickly. You, as the writer, literally have only a small piece, word-count wise, to get you to the defining conflict, the climax, of your novel. That doesn’t mean you gloss over or rush through it, but just that you keep pumping up the pace. Here, the reader has been rafting the river and (if the author is really good!) the current has picked up leading to the falls before said reader knows it. By the time he does, long gone is the option to jump out of the boat and swim to shore to avoid tumbling headlong over the cliff. I.e., if your reader can put down the book here (even though it’s 2 AM and he has to work in the morning!), you have failed. At this point, you have your reader on the edge of his seat, dying to know what looms ahead.
This leads us into the supreme ordeal, which we’ll talk about next time!
So, how do you surge toward the finish?