How do you write an action climax without it being standard or routine?


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Thread: How do you write an action climax without it being standard or routine?

  1. #1

    How do you write an action climax without it being standard or routine?

    For my story, the main character a cop, has got enough evidence for the police to arrest the villain. But you want something more exciting and dramatic to happen than just an arrest.

    I mean I could have it turn into a hostage situation, or some sort of stand off, or a right, or all the above, but how do you write it without it feeling so standard, like you just put that in for drama's sake, rather than just have a quiet arrest? What do you think?

  2. #2
    Doesn't have to be some huge fiasco, though that could certainly work. Another thing you might try is the bad guys turning on each other, or a victim turning on them.

    Cop dramas aren't a new thing. You've got a lot of source material in the genre--both film and books. Figure out what works best for your story. There's lots of ways to get these bozos arrested--or shoot them. Or let them kill each other. Or let them die of asphyxiation because they're all huddled in the garage with a running vehicle. House fire.

    It would be especially hilarious if you weaved some other crime sprees throughout the narrative. Like some rogue arsonist or prostitute or TV thief that nobody cared about by comparison to The Giant Rape Gang. And *that guy* somehow contributes to the arrest or death of your Big Bad perps.
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  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by ironpony View Post
    For my story, the main character a cop, has got enough evidence for the police to arrest the villain. But you want something more exciting and dramatic to happen than just an arrest.

    I mean I could have it turn into a hostage situation, or some sort of stand off, or a right, or all the above, but how do you write it without it feeling so standard, like you just put that in for drama's sake, rather than just have a quiet arrest? What do you think?
    Turn it on its head.

    Nobody really wants to see the bad guy get quietly arrested at the end of a crime novel. We think we do, but we don't. There are all kinds of alternatives.

    In crime/noir, I like the type of ending which amounts to a Pyrrhic victory for the protagonist. That is, the arrest is made or mission is otherwise completed, but at such heavy personal toll for the protagonist that it feels like a defeat in many ways. The ending of the first season of True Detective basically follows this pattern.

    The ending of Polanski's Chinatown is another example of that if I recall, when Gittis narrowly survives death and jail but his actions have indirectly caused the murder of Evelyn Mulwray and there is a sense of return to/acceptance of the status quo concerning the corruption in the city ('Forget it, it's Chinatown'). The message is basically one of pessimism.

    A good way to think of it is as physical survival but psychological defeat. On the part of the protagonist, you are looking to juxtapose what seems like a good outcome with a terribly unpleasant one. This may or may not include physical capture or demise but nonetheless a psychological victory on the part of the antagonist.
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  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    Turn it on its head.

    Nobody really wants to see the bad guy get quietly arrested at the end of a crime novel. We think we do, but we don't. There are all kinds of alternatives.

    In crime/noir, I like the type of ending which amounts to a Pyrrhic victory for the protagonist. That is, the arrest is made or mission is otherwise completed, but at such heavy personal toll for the protagonist that it feels like a defeat in many ways. The ending of the first season of True Detective basically follows this pattern.

    The ending of Polanski's Chinatown is another example of that if I recall, when Gittis narrowly survives death and jail but his actions have indirectly caused the murder of Evelyn Mulwray and there is a sense of return to/acceptance of the status quo concerning the corruption in the city ('Forget it, it's Chinatown'). The message is basically one of pessimism.

    A good way to think of it is as physical survival but psychological defeat. On the part of the protagonist, you are looking to juxtapose what seems like a good outcome with a terribly unpleasant one. This may or may not include physical capture or demise but nonetheless a psychological victory on the part of the antagonist.
    Oh okay, well I guess what I mean is, is the action itself. One cop could shoot one villain, one villain could stab one cop, etc. But it all feels rudimentary, or cliched. So I guess I was talking about action itself, instead of the plot or character's developments more so.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by ironpony View Post
    Oh okay, well I guess what I mean is, is the action itself. One cop could shoot one villain, one villain could stab one cop, etc. But it all feels rudimentary, or cliched. So I guess I was talking about action itself, instead of the plot or character's developments more so.
    Yeah but it's the same basic thing: Your story needs to be engaging and its only engaging if the plot and character developments work.

    It doesn't matter how great you can write an action scene - nobody will care about it if they aren't already invested in the story. At the end of Game Of Thrones (series) Jon Snow stabs Daenerys Targaryen to death. It's hardly an interesting scene on paper, in fact it's as dull as a murder can be, but what gives it its intensity is the situation that leads up to it, the emotional connection between the characters, the tension that had been building.

    A scene like that is never 'standard or routine' whereas a gunfight between twenty bland characters with no emotional component no matter how it is written will be insipid.

    If you have a great story, this probably isn't something you need to worry about much. If you don't have a great story, an elaborate action climax won't help you.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

    "Perhaps I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow."

    “Remember this: Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him. ”

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  6. #6
    Oh okay well I as far as character and emotion goes, I was thinking of having the main character, want to kill the main villain out of revenge, cause he thinks the villain will come up with some new plan to beat the failing system again, but the other cops could come in and stop him maybe... But this also feels like I've seen it before, so not sure.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by ironpony View Post
    But this also feels like I've seen it before, so not sure.
    Not going to read the whole thread, but I will comment on this.

    My dad likes to talk about how there's only half a dozen stories or whatever. And yeah, at a level of analysis that's lower in resolution, this is probably true (mostly). There's probably only half a dozen different ways that people's lives pan out, too.

    What will make your story unique is not one single thread, but the manner in which you weave the dozens of threads together to make a cohesive whole. Your characters, your plot, your setting, the theme, your voice, and your style (how you use your voice).

    Remember that there will be people who may be completely new to whatever genre you're writing in. They received your book as a gift, or picked it up at a garage sale, or had to pick a book to read for school, or whatever.

    In other words, they may not have "seen it before". I've seen happy endings before. I've seen bittersweet, Pyrrhic endings as someone described. Doesn't mean they're ruined for me after seeing them once.
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  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by ironpony View Post
    Oh okay well I as far as character and emotion goes, I was thinking of having the main character, want to kill the main villain out of revenge, cause he thinks the villain will come up with some new plan to beat the failing system again, but the other cops could come in and stop him maybe... But this also feels like I've seen it before, so not sure.
    So here's an example that I just thought of. No idea if it's relevant to your story particularly but hopefully it illustrates what I mean.

    Let's say your MC is a cop who is Mr. Goody Two Shoes: A stickler for the rules, honest, noble, all the bullshit.

    Let's say the villain is a real piece of shit as only a villain can be. Imagine working toward an action climax where Goody-Two-Shoes cop finally cracks after his numerous attempts to bring the villain to justice are thwarted by that failing system.

    Slowly the situation creeps toward becoming personal. Gradually the veneer of honest professionalism begins to slip. Increasingly the cop begins to go insane, begins to become...drum roll...kind of a villain himself. Imagine his obsession with bringing the villain to justice becomes psychotic and he starts to do increasingly immoral things to get ahead all the while telling himself the ends justify the means.

    Perhaps he starts committing crimes himself and justifying it by promising to change once he has caught the bastard. You fill in the gaps...

    ...and this 'action climax' then involves some terrible act. Maybe in a desperate attempt to catch the villain he ends up, I don't know, bringing down an airliner or killing a child - something monstrous done through him losing control of himself.

    Whatever it is, this moment of monstrosity means the descent coming full circle, the spell being broken. Suddenly the cop realizes that in trying to stop the villain he has become as bad or worse than the villain ever was. You could make a nice tie-in with it suddenly becoming clear that the motive for the villain's crimes was also something driven by good intention - that in actuality the cop and the villain are both strikingly similar, just in different roles. Or just leave him a bastard if you prefer.

    ^And there's your message, your emotional core. It is that which makes meaning.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

    "Perhaps I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow."

    “Remember this: Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him. ”

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  9. #9
    Oh okay, well I guess what I mean is, is the action itself. One cop could shoot one villain, one villain could stab one cop, etc. But it all feels rudimentary, or cliched.
    If it's not written out in a draft, then it's almost certainly going to sound somewhat like that because it's how you get it onto paper that brings it to life. I don't do writing much anymore, painting mostly and some sculpture, but I think this is the case in any kind of artistic pursuit. You plan and practice and get your sketch laid out and your palette sort of figured out but you have to get in the moment at some point and make a few thousand tiny brush strokes/word choices and then look at it and see how it feels. If it's still lacking, then get out the gesso and white out the canvas. Maybe a whole new sketch or maybe just different, more mature, strokes. But there's no way to judge the painting from the sketch. It all depends on the brushwork. I am always having to practice my brushwork, which I happen to like way better than practicing word choice/composition, which is why I don't write much anymore. But it's all about the artist learning how they personally are able to bring ideas to life and then doing it obsessively and, in the end, just tossing the bad canvasses. ............. And
    A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking. Steven Wright

  10. #10
    I feel there is a story to weave and it would involve letting your reader know that the bad guy is also a priest and that he is having an affair with the cop’s wife. This story could play out as your MC finds out more about the ‘crook’ which reveals he is his wife’s paramour who just happens to be his priest. Now to your MC it is personal. Will his rage overtake him, will he lose his badge when he shoots him down? The tension grows until you ‘the author’ put a surprise ending to it.

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