Everybody loves a big hero moment. You know, the situation is dire, the sidekick has taken a heavy hit and the hero doesn’t know if he’s still breathing or not. The Big Bad Evil Guy is gloating, his armies have amassed and are descending upon the weakened hero. The city is in ruin and your hero is losing hope. Then something happens – the voice of his mentor echoes in his mind, putting order to his jumbled thoughts. He summons the last scraps of strength left in him, and muscles aching, bones screaming in protest the hero roars in defiance and conjurs a wild cacophony of storming energy that makes the Big Bad stumble. It cannot be, the Big Bad cries as the hero charges. It’s… impossible…!
Yeah, these moments can be quite cheesy. And yes, the word ‘overdone’ comes to mind when thinking of your typical Shonen Anime. But when used well, when drama and tension is properly built before this defining climax, it can send your readers whooping and hollering out of their seats. But how does one do this well? How do you avoid the cheesy pitfalls in order to entertain your readers rather than making them cringe?
Learn to build tension. Treat your story like a pressure cooker. Build the tension throughout the story, letting only some pressure out at select intervals but making sure to retain enough to keep readers reading. This can be done by using conflict effectively, and making the hero lose some battles. Killing characters also works, but be careful when using this device as it can backfire and cheapen any further deaths you wish to introduce. By building tension like this, you can almost make a reader sigh in relief when the hero goes nuclear at the climax of the story.
Make sure your character grows. Show that he is no longer the farm boy from the country. Show that along the way he has honed his skills, grown into someone with self-confidence and assertiveness. Show that he is no longer a child, and readers will believe the emotional turmoil within him during the climax. If your character hasn’t grown, then readers will wonder why you spent 400+ pages telling a story that could have begun and ended with the final conflict.
Also, I hope you noticed that in all the examples above I wrote ‘show.’ This is important and purposeful: you may have heard this a hundred times before, but knowing the distinction between showing and telling when it comes to your writing is absolutely crucial if you want to write good enthralling stories. Show your readers, because in writing, as in life, actions do speak louder than words. Don’t spell it out for your audience, they’re smart enough to figure it out for themselves.
But above all, remember that this is not the only way to depict your final conflict; this is just one that I’m a fan of due to its inherent ‘comic-book-action’ feel. Do you have any favourite ways of wrapping up the climax of your story? What about examples from books you’ve read?