Writing Tip – Turning Up the Heat Part 7: All Factors Culminate

WritingHintsPhotoIn previous weeks I have been discussing turning up the heat in your story as a way to build toward the climactic event. Here are more ways to make the action sizzle.

  1. Impossible Dilemmas
  2. Double Jeopardy
  3. The Black Moment
  4. The Point of No Return
  5. All Factors Culminate at Once

Today I will focus on “All Factors Culminate at Once.”

Since you have used the first four elements in the list to turn up the heat, now you are ready for a climactic event. For the climax, set up a new impossible dilemma, create a double jeopardy, plunge the character into a black moment, and force him or her to make a decision that is a point of no return. In addition, have the antagonist attack the protagonist at the vulnerability point that you established early in the story. (See this link for the tip on the vulnerability point.)

Make the impossible dilemma hit the vulnerability directly, and force the protagonist to choose between protecting that soft spot and saving something else, usually a different issue of huge importance that developed during the story. The best time to have these happen all at once is during a peak in the action, either the ultimate conflict moment or an earlier peak that feels like the ultimate conflict.

In the following excerpt from Reapers, Alex, the antagonist, threatens Misty (the vulnerability established early in the story). Alex presents Phoenix with an impossible dilemma. Phoenix has a double jeopardy in that he has been weakened and might die if Alex doesn’t provide what he needs, and he still has multiple people to save, including some prisoners who are trying to escape at this moment. This combination creates a black moment, and no matter what Phoenix chooses, it will be a point of no return.

(***Reapers Spoiler Alert***)

Alex set the sonic gun at the back of Misty’s head. “Feel free to converse, but don’t take another step closer.”

“Misty!” I extended my arms, but they were way too short. “Are you hurt?”

A sob contorted her face. Tears flowed. As she shook, her lips formed the first part of my real name, but she sucked it back and cried out, “Phoenix! Oh, Phoenix, I missed you so much!”

“I missed you, too!” I tightened a fist and shook it at Alex. “Let her go! She’s innocent! She hasn’t done anything to deserve—”

“Oh, shut up, Phoenix. I know that.” Alex pressed the barrel against Misty’s head, bending her neck forward. “This is unveiled, unbridled brute force. If I can get you to kill Shanghai, you’ll be mine forever, but I doubt that you yet know yourself the way I know you. You hand over slavish chains in a way you don’t yet comprehend.”

She nodded at the line of guards. “Four of you hold him. Don’t underestimate his strength.” Peter and three guards stalked toward me. I readied my fists and leaped at Alex. Peter grabbed my arm and jerked me backwards into the foursome’s clutches. As I struggled to get free, he twisted my elbow with incredible strength. Pain rocketed to my brain, sending blinding flashes across my eyes.

“Stop it,” Peter growled, “or I’ll break your arm.”

I swallowed through my dry throat. How could I save Misty when I couldn’t even budge?

“Now, Phoenix …” Alex’s smile thinned out. “Who will live and who will die?”

“No. Don’t. Please.” Tears blurred my vision. “Let’s make another deal. Any deal. We can negotiate. Please, just don’t kill Misty. She’s got nothing to do with this. She’s inno—”

“Stop begging!” Alex shouted. “You know what I want, and I won’t negotiate. Either Misty or Shanghai will die. It’s up to you. You have five seconds to decide.”

If you have any questions or comments, please post them.

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  1. Oh, I cried at this scene. Goodness, I need to read this book again. 🙂

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