Video Transcript: When it comes to the climax, we’re always intent on giving readers the biggest bang for their buck, and that would seem to mean always saving the biggest explosion for last. But there’s actually another consideration to keep in mind when ordering the events of your climax.
Now, before I get any farther, let me just stop to clarify that when I talk about climactic explosions or killing bad guys, I’m just applying these terms generally to antagonists. There may not be an explosion in sight in your story. Your antagonist might be your character’s mother, the weather, or the character’s own doubts. But what I’m about to say still applies.
More often than not, your climax is going to consist of a series of scenes, in which your character progressively defeats a series of antagonists. For example, in order to destroy the Death Star, you first have to get past all the laser cannons, then you have to get past the TIE fighters, and then you have to get past Darth Vader. The order here is really important. Not only do you want to save your biggest battle until the very end, you also want to make sure that your hero’s last battle is the one in which he has the largest personal investment.
Maybe you have a story in which the hero’s brother is a crippled mastermind who has unleashed mutated monstrosities on the world. On paper, the physical battle between the hero and the scary monsters seems to be the bigger explosion. But the true climactic confrontation is always going to be as much about your character’s emotions as his physical actions. In a situation like this, of course, he’s going to be more emotionally invested in his brother than in some mindless monster, however scary it may be. Optimally, you can stage your battles to get the most out of both the physical and the emotional, but always double-check that your hero is fighting his most important antagonist last.
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