I keep working through “Invisible Ink”. This time around I’ve learned about how the best stories have a balance of external action and internal development of the characters, a glimpse into their emotions and inner life. And I’ve learned what a climax of the story actually is. How can this book tackle all and every problem I ever had with my writing? And why do the explanations work so well for me?
I have heard about the climax of a story before. I was under the impression that the climax of the story is it’s most important, most dramatic, most action rich scene or moment. It changes everything and the whole story builds up to it. While this is not wrong, it was not precise. It could have lead me astray in some cases. In fact, the climax of the story is the test whether your protagonist has changed or not. Not every protagonist is changing, and not every protagonist is changing for the better, but the climax is a test of whether they did, usually a decision they make in a dire situation. And everything that happened before is necessary to establish why it’s a big deal. It does not matter whether the protagonist is about to save the whole world, their relationship with their child or just make peace with themselves, which nobody may even see from the outside. It is your job as writer of that story to craft it in a way that makes the reader care.
DANGER, SPOILERS AHEAD. Don’t read if you want to experience that in SPREY yourself later.
SPREY’s climax so far has been Rich sacrificing his life for Willard. This is a reversed mirror to the beginning of the comic where Rich just can’t bring himself to commit to a stable relationship with Willard. Rich is afraid of getting his heart broken later. He also doesn’t like the prospect of having to arrange himself with a partner. He is so used to fend for himself and do what he wants the way he wants, it seems like a huge disadvantage to give even a bit of that freedom away. But then he is ready to give his life.
This is also an inversion of the whole plot of Willard leaving his old life behind to save Rich. Willard’s arc actually is over already when the climax comes up. The slashers taught him that he has a chaotic side and a potential for evil, but they offered him a very flawed way to deal with that. Willard would have had a choice to become a slasher, for real and fully, but he did not give in to that and went with Rich, saving a lot of lives on the way out.
I’m surprised to find that it does not matter whether Rich and Willard survive in the following, at least not for the climax. The climax is just about putting their character development to the test. I think I have to correct myself, Willard is tested twice. So he does not become a slasher. But now that that is gone and that Rich is gone… he has to make another choice. There is a very slim chance that Rich is still alive. Rich has distracted the slashers who were after them away from Willard’s tracks and has probably been badly injured when they got him. But he could still be alive. Willard would be free to just go, return to the normal world as a changed, more balanced man. Instead, he goes right back to grasp that last straw and save Rich if he can. Willard is in for a battle he cannot win and he knows it. But he does it out of love. And now he understands why Rich was afraid of it. This is Willard’s sacrifice.
I don’t intend to break my own heart entirely and will let the lovers survive. I’m not entirely sure how they make it out of there in one piece, but that is a detail question compared to decisions about the underlying story structure and it’s workings.
But wait…that is just the climax. That is not a theme. Remember? SPREY still got none. But at least the beginning matches the climax, which is a huge win already. And the climax is strong! Maybe the theme will reveal itself once I worked further through “Invisible Ink” and also did more writing work on SPREY. What do I want to say with SPREY? I don’t know yet. But what I got already stands at least a basic test.
See you next blogpost!