You might think that an informational nonfiction book doesn’t need a climax. You’re wrong.
The point of informational nonfiction is to get the reader to make a change in their life: buy a product, use a service, start a habit, work differently, be a better person, and so on. The climax of your book is the point where they put down the book, stand up, and say, “Ima do this right now!”
Unlike in fiction, where the point of the climax is to let the reader vicariously release emotion, the climax of informational nonfiction comes when the reader has so much pent-up emotion that he or she has to go out and physically do something about it.
Ideally, this will happen at the end of the book, during your call to action. You’ve made your case, shown your evidence, beautifully described the benefits of following your advice, and now your reader can’t wait to move. The climax is the line or paragraph where you tell them, “Here is what I want you to do now.” If the book has done its job, the reader says, “Okay!” and runs off to obey.
The climax moment itself matters. Here are three tips to help you maximize the impact of the climax:
1. State your purpose plainly instead of relying on hints.
Don’t rely on the reader to figure out what to do; give them a clear direction to go. The reader should be able to restate your book’s climax in a sentence like this: “Now that I know the things I learned in this book, I need to…” Have some honest friends read the climax of the book and try to finish that sentence. If they don’t all (yes, all) come back with the correct response, write your purpose more directly.
2. Use strong verbs.
Verbs have power. They convey action. The clearer the verbs in your book’s climax, the more impact it will have. Want the reader to start a new exercise routine? Use energy-dense verbs that punch them in the face. Want them to slow down and take ten minutes each day to meditate? Use flowing verbs that give their brain a massage. The verbs you choose will change the feel of your book’s climax, so use ones that fit with your overall message.
3. Keep it brief.
You don’t need to restate your point thirty different ways. Say your piece, and get off the soapbox. If your book has done its job, once is enough.
How close are you to your book’s climax? Do you already know what you’re going to say? Share your progress in the comments!
*This Week’s Word Count*
Your book is as long as: A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
The climax of a fictional book is the point where the reader experiences a cathartic release of emotion through the actions of the characters. It’s the part where they hold their breaths and feel tired afterward. It’s the part that makes them yell things in triumph or weep in despair.
It’s a big deal.
Chances are, you had a climax scene in mind when you started writing the book. Maybe it was the scene that inspired the book to begin with. You’re probably not there yet in your writing, but we’re going to talk about it anyway so that you’re prepared when the time comes. Here are five ways to get the most out of your book’s climax:
1. Keep the action rolling.
The climax is the culmination of your book’s momentum. Don’t slow down. Throughout the climax, your characters should be acting, achieving, realizing important information, issuing orders – in short, doing stuff. Don’t let them take a break to talk about what they’re doing or reflect on its implications. That’s what the falling action is for. The climax is for movement. So keep everybody moving.
2. Use strong verbs.
Your verbs convey the energy of the scene to your readers. Choose them well, and make them precise. If a character is sneaking around, say they “crept” instead of “walked.” If they’re hurrying, say they “sprinted” instead of “ran.” As I told the nonfiction authors above, use energy dense verbs that punch your reader in the face. The more detailed and nuanced your verbs, the more impact your characters’ actions will have.
3. Use sensory details.
How does your scene smell? What sounds can the characters hear? How does the ground feel under their feet? What color is the sky? A smattering of sensory details can breathe extra life into the climax and make it that much more memorable.
4. Let the reader in.
Allow the reader to inhabit the space of the characters. Let them experience everything the characters experience. If someone is in pain, show that pain. Describe it in terms that make the reader shudder. If the protagonist is scared, describe the way the fear feels in their stomach. Use these physical descriptions to let the reader inside the protagonist’s body. (This only works if you’re writing from a point of view that lets you go inside a character’s head. If you don’t go inside the characters, you can use externally observed details, such as color in the face, tension in the muscles, etc. to achieve the same effect.)
5. Milk it.
Unlike nonfiction authors, who should avoid hammering their points in to the point of preachiness, fiction authors have the liberty to milk their climax for all it’s worth. Spend some time there. Show the scene playing out second by second. Squeeze every ounce of drama out of it. Once you feel like you’ve said all that there is to say, then you can move on.
Do you know what you’re going to write for your book’s climax? Are you looking forward to it? Share your thoughts in the comments!
*This Week’s Word Count*
Your book is as long as: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame