Saturday, April 3, 2010

C is for Climax

If that title doesn't get me a few more visitors from Twitter, nothing will.

While writing this post I'm womaning the Northern Colorado Writers studio for the day. I usually have a dictionary and a Bartlett's by my computer as I write, so I strolled into the NCW library to see what we had on the shelves. And I found the coolest book:

The Fiction Dictionary by Laurie Henry (Story Press, an imprint of F&W Publications, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1995).

I flipped to the Cs and found words and definitions from "camp fiction" to "cyberpunk." I jumped to the Us to see if there was a definition for "urban fantasy" in 1995. There was not. No Xs or Zs either. I won't get off so easy later in the month. I've linked to a 2001 edition of the book, so it would be interesting to see what additions might have been made since 1995.

Today I could have chosen catharsis, cliche, conflict, or crisis. I picked climax instead. Defined by Ms. Henry as "turning point -- The point in a story's action when tension is at its highest, generally a point close to the end of the work."

Taking The Desert Hedge Murders as my example for today, the climax of the novel comes toward the end when Sylvia and Willie (and P.I. Patsy Strump) are caught snooping around an old touristy gold mine at night. Patsy disappears, truck headlights come on, catching Sylvia and Willie crossing the parking lot, and I sure would love it if you'd ask your library to order a copy so you can see what happens next.

As Ms. Henry says, "A climax will be followed, in a conventional story, by the denouement, the tying up of any loose ends." Hmmm. I guess that eliminates "denouement" as my word for Monday's post. Anyway, yes, there's a denouement following the climax in my novel. As a matter of fact, there are two (but I keep them short so readers don't get bored out of their minds -- long, drawn-out denouements are the pits).

I've check The Fiction Dictionary out of the NCW library for the week. Is there anything you want me to look up?


Talli Roland said...

I have to say, I clicked the link to your post as soon as the title flashed up on my sidebar! Talk about judging a post by its title... :)

Hm. Nothing comes to mind straight away but I'll let you know if I think of anything for you to look up!

Jan Morrison said...

Climax - hmmmmm...OK, I'll think about this. With 'c' words it is conflict that I struggle with. I wouldn't mind hearing something on point of view and voice. There.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That would be a cool book to look through. And yes, your post title will attract attention!

Ann Elle Altman said...

I didn't know that dictionary existed. It sounds like a great one. Sounds very modern and hip.


Patricia Stoltey said...

Good morning blogger friends...I'm off to Toys R Us to buy a Tickle Me Elmo for the little grand-one's 1st birthday. I'll be checking in later.

Jan -- voice sounds like it might be a good choice for V, but I could also choose victim or vampire or many choices and only one month's challenge. Of course, I could choose more than one word....


Most entertaining to read though I will admit the title had me going down the wrong road.
I enjoy your blogs and look forward to each letter that will be coming along in this challenge.
Have a lovely Easter.

Cricket McRae said...

Definitely an arresting title! I'd be interested in knowing how that dictionary defines tension. On the surface it seems pretty simple, but there are so many different types and levels.

Linda O'Connell said...

Hi Patricia, Linda O'Connell here from St. Louis. I won your book at Donna V.'s site and must say, I was right there in that crawl space with Sylvia. Wow, what tension. Thank you for the book. www.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Thanks, Linda. I appreciate the kind comment. Crawlspaces can be very creepy places, even when you're not hiding from bad people.

I'll be back with a few definitions this evening. Just returned from the Animal Farm (the one with the real farm animals, not the book) and now must run to the store. Someone in this house is sure eating a lot. :)

Terry Odell said...

Then again, your title could disappoint romance readers/writers when they actually read the post.
I'm all for the "D" word (can't spell it or pronounce it). I really don't like the abrupt endings when the crime is solved/killer is caught, and then it's all over. I want a little more resolution from the characters' standpoint.

Anonymous said...

haha The title certainly grabbed my attention! :o))

Simon Hay Soul Healer said...

'If that title doesn't get me a few more visitors from Twitter, nothing will.' hahaha I'll retweet you for fun. I'm curious about tension too. Z - zombie, zooid - its biology but it could be a metaphor for a writing style.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Geesh, who knew today would be so busy.

Anyway, looked up "tension" in the Fiction Dictionary. It say tension is "The sense of excitement a reader feels when two or more aspects of a work tug her in seemingly opposite directions, helping her to main psychological interest in the work."

I guess that would be the moment in the suspense novel when the recklessly brave heroine creeps down the stairs in a dark house and the reader says "no, no, don't do that," but the writing and plot are good enough that she keeps reading anyway?

Ms. Henry goes on to describe the different types of tension, and uses Iris Murdoch's "A Severed Head" as her example to analyze.

Patricia Stoltey said...

More definitions:

Conflict: "The struggle between two or more contrary forces that generally is at the heart of any fictional word's plot."

Point of view: "The vantage point from which a story is presented." Ms. Henry notes this is the most important choice a writer makes for her novel.

Voice: "A term often used since the 1980s that in one sense can refer to an author's style, his distinctive way of combining words, rhythm and diction that makes his manner of writing unique."

In each of these cases, Henry elaborates and gives good examples of her definition.

Jemi Fraser said...

A long drawn out denouement was the problem with my first draft. Once I deleted a bunch and then started again, it kind of flew :) Much better!