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Conflict after the climax

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Greybeard, May 25, 2011.

  1. Greybeard

    Greybeard Minstrel

    Any insights into including a conflict after a novel's climax? Should this practice be avoided, or can it work in the right hands?

    Can you think of any examples of this working?
  2. Kelise

    Kelise Maester

    I think anything could work in the right hands, but so far I've only heard it as a 'cop out', to make people read the next book. But I'm sure it could be done well somehow.

    And really, if there are novels in a series, I think people should expect to read them all anyway.
  3. myrddin173

    myrddin173 Maester

    The most well known example I can think of would be the Lord of the Rings. The climax is the defeat of Sauron. The story however continues on and a major conflict, the Scouring of the Shire occurs. So I would say it is doable.
  4. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    I'm not so sure. Scouring of the Shire was dull. Why do you think they cut it from the films (aside from, you know, the whole time issue meaning that, if it were included, Return of the King would be about 4 hours long).

    Assuming a standalone novel, I feel that putting conflict after the major climax will play havoc with pacing and reader anticipation, and furthermore makes it difficult to have a clear-cut ending. If it's not important, it should just be cut out; if it is, then maybe it should have been the climax instead. If it's just important to keep but not as important as the climax, then, well, I'm sure it can be done, it just needs to be handled carefully. It should be established as something that will happen long before it does - either as a direct fallout of something not concluded in the climax, or as a subplot that's been building up since long before the climax. At that stage of the book, it cannot simply come out of nowhere.

    If it's part of an ongoing series, it's almost worse in many ways, partly because it's an overdone trick to get readers (and viewers in the case of TV or film series) to read/watch the next installment. Done a different way, though, it can be a way to bring about a final conclusion to the story without leading on to the next one, like in The Dark Knight; after the Joker was defeated, there was still Two Face, and at first it looked like he was being set up as the villain in a sequel, but they dealt with him in the end too. And that's another, more subtle way to get audiences returning - it builds respect, and a reader/viewer who respects the creator(s) is more likely to seek out the next installment.

    To be honest, I don't really know how to answer this question, but it has made me think. I guess it depends upon you as a writer - on your skill, on what you're trying to achieve, and on the story you're trying to tell.
  5. Donny Bruso

    Donny Bruso Sage

    I think that it's a viable option, but you need to be careful how you handle it. Firstly I think it needs to be resolved within the same volume. As many have said, immediately starting up a new major conflict and leaving it unresolved smacks of cliffhanger endings, which I, personally, absolutely hate.

    Secondly, even though I just said major conflict, I think that is another No-Go. Any conflict after the climax should be small compared to your major plot problem. Unless they aren't, you need to remember that your characters are only mortal, with a finite amount of stress and personal inconvenience they will accept for the sake of saving the world. Immediately jumping into another world-threatening crisis kind of devalues the one you just solved. Clearly they pop up every five minutes, so how bad can they really be?

    The scouring of the Shire in LoTR did actually have a purpose, and that was to complete the character arcs for the hobbits. It was a way of showing how their journey has changed them, that they can now deal with this problem instead of screaming for Gandalf, Aragorn, Tom Bombadil, Faramir, and the other numerous people who did all the work so the hobbits could get all the credit. (No, I don't like hobbits.)

    So, end of diatribe, if you have conflict after your climax, make sure it serves a purpose, and doesn't devalue the entire story you just wrote.
  6. Nathan J. Lauffer

    Nathan J. Lauffer Staff Leadership

    I'm with Donny on this. The Scouring of the Shire is near and dear to my heart for the exact reasons that he stated. I was heart broken when it wasn't in the movie. Fortunately, I found out ahead of time, so I wasn't expecting it. I think that there can often be "loose ends" to wrap up after the main climax concludes. If anything it's a symptom of a rich story.
  7. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

    Excellent point by Donny. I would go so far as to say that any further conflict after the climax should serve to illustrate the result of a character or the characters journey. After all, you assumedly no longer have the main plot conflict to pay attention to. Your characters are what should drive the end of a book.
  8. After the initial conflict anything else is a let-down. You crawl away and heal your wounds if you can. In most cases neither side even knows if they've won or not: counting bodies is the best reference, and a poor one at that. I see no reason to include another battle if the war's already been decided. Most people are more concerned with their own well-being and can't be bothered with notions of victory or defeat. Except in fiction. Ideals abound in fiction. It has no bearing on reality though. The average human being is just glad to have survived.
  9. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

    Well, if you go with the traditional way of thinking–that the climax takes place in the third act–you better still have some conflict afterward, or acts 4 and 5 are gonna be really dull. ;)

    Whether there's "conflict" after the outcome of the pivotal encounter… that's another story. I'd say that it depends on how you want to balance, or portray the balance of, two main factors: (1) the reader's expectation of "happily ever after"; and (2) the reality that there is no such thing. I lean more toward the latter… I like my fantasy to be as believable as possible, stage property aside, and the fact is that life goes on. Your characters may never have to draw steel again, but having everything wrap up neatly at the same time just doesn't work for me.

    Oh, yes: I liked the Scouring of the Shire. What was dull was the Houses of Healing, and the wedding/coronation bit.… :p
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  10. AParker

    AParker Acolyte

    I think conflict after the climax can serve to make an important point- that there aren't necessarily one hundred percent easy answers to complex problems. Just because you killed the evil overlord doesn't mean that the fact that he's been burning crops for the past six months of his campaign against Herotopia suddenly goes away.

    Also, conflict need not necessarily mean martial conflict. Some different examples of conflict that could follow a fairly stereotypical conflict (IE, slew the evil overlord in his throne room, disabled his army of animated statues or what have you)


    The Conflict: Due to all of the crops and villages burned by the evil overlord, there are now large groups of refugees. As tends to happen in this situation, thuggery and banditry springs up, both among some of the refugees and among those who see them as easy prey. Hero intervenes in one specific case of this.

    The Purpose: Shows that there are continuing and realistic problems- and that the hero is committed to dealing with them, rather than just riding off into the sunset and assuming that everything will be all right here.


    The Conflict: Heroine made some morally questionable choices along the way to defeating the evil overlord. Love Interest or Other Supporting Character confronts her about these, ultimately announcing that he can't bear to be around her any longer, and is leaving for frontier/capital/somewhere else.

    The Purpose: Heroine is forced to deal with consequences of her decision. Adds complexity to characters and gives a somewhat bittersweet taste to the victory.


    The Conflict: Heroine who was summoned from our world to fight evil returns and performs task (competes in gymnastic tournament, fights bullies, asks Love Interest out) that had daunted her before mystic journey.

    The Purpose: Demonstrates character growth, wraps up heroine's personal storyline, audience cheers and eats popcorn.


    The Conflict: Ragtag Group of Heroes confronts Treacherous Ally who sold them out to Evil Overlord at an earlier pivotal point in the story.

    The Purpose: Ties up loose ends, our heroes get revenge, bloodiness according to personal taste. Treacherous Ally possibly redeemed or forgiven due to actions in the meantime.

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