How to write and develop the climax in a short story

How to write and develop the climax in a short story

Starting at the end where the impact is needed

When Lewis Carroll used the expression «Begin at the beginning, and end at the end» in Alice in Wonderland, little did he know how that catchphrase would be quoted over the centuries. In fact, when writing a short story, the ending is where the most impact should be gained, as it is the goal of a good quality writer to work toward that ending, knowing throughout their work that everything is aimed at a quality finish which will leave the reader satisfied with what they read. Short stories need that impact in order to sell. Stories which work towards a twist ending are one of the most popular genres of short stories to be purchased and a great introduction to the art of creating endings with impact.


Step 1

Creation of the story spine.

Every short story needs a «spine» or basic outline. Before any characters are created, the author should have an idea about the overall story. Short stories for magazines are usually around 1500 words, and this is also a good size for online short stories, or even those to be placed in an anthology of short stories. Think in terms of beginning, middle, and end. Write down ideas and work away at them. Often thoughts come when they are least expected. Ensure that you have access to a dictaphone or notepad and pen, so you can capture the ideas as they develop. One lost thought is a lost opportunity.

Step 2

Strengthening your ending.

Work out different possibilities for the ending of your story. Think of different scenarios. One thing is clear. An author is more productive and reaches their target more effectively if they know where the story is going. It’s a signpost along the way, and acts as the focal point to a story. How often have people been tempted to read the last page of a book? The ending should surprise, amaze, amuse or even leave a reader hungry to read more work from the same author. Work on your ending until you are actually amazed by your ability to finish the story in a satisfactory way.

Step 3


Now that you know where your story is heading, it is easier to create a beginning. A writer should already know the kind of characters who would realistically play out the kind of scenario they have already thought of. Be intimate with how your characters think, and from the beginning of the story, let your readers know who they are and how their characteristics guide them into making decisions or taking actions within the story itself. The introduction or beginning is the first notion readers get of who they are and how the world around them affects their decision making processes. Introduce your story with temptation and ambiance, and also an element of temptation which makes them want to read further.

Step 4


Often writers make the mistake of padding the middle of a short story. This happens because they simply run out of ideas. If you already know where the story is heading, this makes it a lot easier to add impact to each part of the story. The reader needs to be teased, to feel empathy with the characters and to care sufficiently to want to know which decisions they will make. It is almost like watching a child develop. The middle of the story brings the beginning into focus, but also acts as a platform to bring the story to a climax of anticipation.

Step 5

Reaching the end.

If your beginning concentrates on luring the writer into passionate feeling about characters and events, and the middle develops that passion, the end of the story is relatively easy to write. Think carefully before putting pen to paper. Jot down notes. You need to leave the real conclusion of the story until the last couple of lines. Predictability spoils a story. It is no surprise when the heroine wins her man. It is no surprise when everyone lives happily ever after. What may surprise and amaze the reader is the road they took to get there against the odds. The end of the story should contain sufficient surprise to leave the reader impressed, but also leave them startled by clever planning and execution.

Step 6


You can interpret the words of Lewis Carroll in two ways. If you were to begin to think and write your story thinking only of the beginning, you would fail. However, once you get over the concept that stories develop themselves, you can begin with the ending, a full skeleton, character development, and planning. Then and only then can you start to build up to the climax from the beginning and ending at the end, as suggested by Lewis Carroll’s words. Then you will have mastered the technique of writing short stories with impact and endings with a climax readers won’t forget in a hurry.

Things Needed
• Notepad and pen.
• Dictaphone if you have one available.
• Loads of ideas and scenarios.
• Characters that work with the story.
• A clear ending which stuns the reader.

Tips & Warnings
• Never force ideas. Ideas come when least expected, and need to be noted down.
• Some ideas work in one frame of mind while others don’t. Never throw away ideas, as they may be just what you need tomorrow.


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