In this chapter, I’m going to talk about the plot diagram again. So far, we’ve covered the exposition box and the conflict box, but now it’s time to move into the rising actions and the climax.*
Let’s start with rising actions. Rising actions are the meat and potatoes of the story, so to speak. This is all of the drama and all of the events leading up to the main action of the story. The main event is called the climax, which can occur very close to the end of the book or earlier depending on what needs to happen to close the story afterwards. And what does this mean for your rising actions? Well, they can take up a lot of the story, or can end pretty early.
The main point of the rising actions is to keep your reader interested and reading while you build up the situation that truly frames the climax. If you don’t build up the suspense, then the main event isn’t as interesting.
Look at it this way, and I think I may have used this example before. If it’s a kids birthday, then you don’t just tell them what’s in the present. You give them hints or you go on and on making them guess for days before they actually get to open it. If you don’t tease the kid with what’s in the box, they aren’t as excited to open it, and when they do, it’s not as fun. But if they are really involved and they NEED to know what’s in the box, then opening it up is that much more exciting.
So if you have good rising actions, then your reader won’t be able to put the book down when they get to the main event, or the climax. Below are a few things that I’ve learned to use when getting the reader interested and involved with the story, and are also things that could be included in your rising actions if you want to lead up to a great climax:
You don’t notice this as much when you are reading a book, but it is very important when you are writing it. You need to keep your readers interested. To do this, you foreshadow, or hint around what might come next. For example, if you are writing a situation where the character is making a huge decision, you might want to hint around what will happen next if she chooses one way or another.
It’s like when you’re watching netflix, or any television show actually, when something huge happens and you think, “Well I need to know what happens next. Maybe just one more episode…” And two hours later you realize that you had eaten a whole bag of chips while watching Pretty Little Liars.
I don’t speak from experience or anything.
For others it’s like reading a really good series and you finish one book that had just been leaving hints about how something might happen, but it doesn’t yet. And you think, “Well, I need to know if this does end up happening. Just one more book…” And a couple hours later you realize that you finished the series and that it’s two in the morning.
Again, this has totally never happened to me.
The point is that hooking your reader isn’t enough. It may get them to pick up your book and read chapter one, but you need to hook them again and again. You need to keep make them wonder what will happen next by telling them what could happen. And you don’t always have to follow through with that original possibility, either. You could just use it to get them to turn the page, and then surprise them with something completely different.
Relate to the Reader
Think about a book you love. One that you really and truly would read again and again because you loved it so much the first time around. Here’s what you may realise: you can put yourself in the character’s shoes. This applies almost all of the time, with the exception of The Great Gatsby, where Fitzgerald wrote it in a way that is a great story, yet you are kind of supposed to hate all of the characters. There is an exception to every rule, and for this one it’s The Great Gatsby.
Anyway, you need to be able to adjust your character to your target audience so that you can help the reader get into the character’s shoes. When they are visualizing the story, you want them to be looking at it from the character’s perspective, not from their own.
And how do you do this? Picture your target audience. Okay, good. Now think about fone detail about them. Let’s say your audience is young children. They don’t have jobs or mortgages or that many responsibilities compared to other audiences. So in your book, you wouldn’t want to put in a bunch of stuff about money and loans from the bank or real estate, would you? That would just push them away, since they aren’t interested in that kind of thing.
See how simple it is? Just add in things to your story that would appeal to your audience, because then they will like your story more. And when they like your story more, they keep reading.
Drama and Twists
The rising actions can go on for quite a while in some cases, so you can’t just keep doing the same things over and over. Small revelations are nice to keep things interesting, but every now and then you need something huge to happen. Like, for example, finding out that someone has terminal cancer. In The Fault in our Stars, by John Green, finding out that Gus is going to die isn’t the climax, but it is something that foreshadows what is going to happen next, and you keep reading. Another example would be finding out that two tributes can win in the 74th annual hunger games, no just one. That was a huge game changer, but it wasn’t the climax.
See what I mean? These are the things that make you go, “Dang. This book is good.”
And then you turn the page.
These are also known as plot twists. When the story is going one way, you can create a plot twist by adding in something that makes it turn around. Right when you thought that there was no hope for the gladers in The Maze Runner, they figure out how to solve the maze.
Overall, the rising actions are what push the story forward and make you keep reading so that you can get to the best part. And now I will make a Hannah Montana reference: “Life’s a climb, but the view is great.” The climb is the rising actions and the view is the climax.
Next I’m going to go into what will help you with your climax, but that deserves a whole chapter within itself, so keep reading next week when I move on to that.
Have fun writing the meat and potatoes of your story, and I hope all of this helped you. Thanks!
*The link from which the plot diagram photo was found is here: http://www.portnet.k12.ny.us/Page/10210 . I don’t any rights to this photo so I’m giving this website the credit, but you should check out that site for more things like it that can help with writing:)