Talking Heads Do Not a Climax Make

My kids came home and found me playing with my Star Wars figures.

I told them I was working. I’m not sure they bought it.

But it’s the truth! See, I’m writing the final act of Book 3. It’s complicated, with a ton of different characters showing up. I was worried I’d lose track of one or two (something I’ve done before) so I assigned a different Star Wars figure for each character and acted out the entire scene. The Bib Fortuna character enters, and Chewie engages him. Boba Fett drops in it takes Han and Leia together to keep him away from BB-8, who is trying to help Lando reach the Hoth Rebel Gunner Outpost Playset. Meanwhile, Luke and C-3PO are tangling with Jabba the Hutt (I needed something to designate a very large character).

See? Complicated.

But using the figures made me realize that I didn’t give Generic X-Wing Pilot anything to do. Without them, I probably would have totally ignored that character and left him out of the rest of the book. Which would be awkward. So I made sure he helped Han and Leia. Presto! He’s involved.

I tried explaining this to my kids, but their eyes glazed over. Then my daughter made me switch out Slave Leia for Endor Leia. You know, to preserve her dignity.

So with the climax all mapped out, I put my figures away (with only a slight sigh of regret) and got down to the business of writing it all out. Things started smoothly. The bit where Boba Fett drops in is funny, and I was able to give Generic X-Wing Pilot some love when that section began. Then Jabba the Hutt entered and this is exciting because it’s a big reveal and characters are thrown for a loop and so forth. Also, I love writing for my Jabba the Hutt character because I love his voice. So Jabba taunted. Luke rebutted. Lando and BB-8 argued (BB-8 is standing in for an actual person. I’m just using the BB-8 figure because I really like BB-8). Chewie and Bib Fortuna had to get involved. More from Jabba. More from Lando.

And now I’m bored.

I scrolled back up the screen and saw that I’d just written a page and a half where everyone stood there chatting. Oh sure, it was witty, plot-moving chatter. But this is the climax. And they’re all just standing there. Lame.

As a writer of anything other than text books, I have a duty to my audience not to bore them to tears right at the part where they ought to be on the edge of their seat, ignoring their over-extended bladder, hanging on every word. Reveals are nice and all, but I need to incorporate action into the reveal. Well not exactly action, since my book is a Middle Grade supernatural horror/comedy book not an action book, but I definitely owe readers some Middle Grade supernatural horror/comedy.

I have that problem with a lot of books I read, to be honest. Everything is zooming along and suddenly the action stops so the author can spit out everything he or she needs to spit out. Tie up all the loose ends. Explain what the heck they were thinking. The trick is to find the balance. I like to think of old Errol Flynn movies. Not because I’ve ever seen any–I haven’t–but I have a basic idea that they include a lot of theatrical fencing while the bad guy and Errol trade frightfully witty barbs and reveal the plot. It’s a formula:

***

“I will not let you harm the Princess!”

Errol slices at Bad Guy, who parries.

“You fool! The Princess has been working for me the whole time!”

Bad Guy slices at Errol, who ducks. Bad Guy’s sword cuts up some flowers that are in a sconce on the wall.

“What? That’s impossible! We are in love!”

Errol thrusts sword at Bad Guy, who parries it away.

“She doesn’t love you! She loves me!”

Bad Guy clonks Errol on the head with the pommel of his sword. Errol staggers back down a step (because they’ve been fighting on a stone staircase the entire time).

“No! It cannot be! She said she loved me!”

Errol clutches his hand to his chest in emotional agony.

“She lied to you! Also, she’s you mother!”

Bad Guy stabs Errol in the heart. Errol falls off the staircase to his death.

***

Or something like that. The point is, it’s exciting and informative at the same time. There are no talking heads. Talking heads are boring. Boring is lame. Case closed.

So even though I’m only at the beginning of the climax, I need to go back and start over. The last thing I want to write is My Dinner With Andre. That just not very kid-friendly.

 

Author: neilsendavid

Author of Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom.

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