(To survey other elements and author quotes, visit the Elements of Fiction home page)

“The climax is that event or development within a story where all the struggles of the characters are resolved. Naturally, it comes near the end; how near depends on the nature of the story. Sometimes the climax is the very last event; usually, however, a few closing events are needed to show the consequences of the resolution.” Ayn Rand

“The outcome, surprising or not has to follow from the story.” John Gardner

“Everybody feels the greater force of the climax that assumes its right place without an effort, when the time comes, compared to that in which a strain and an exaggerated stress are perceptible.” Percy Lubbock

“When no further event can take place.” John Gardner

“A story raises expectations. The resolution meets them.” John Gardner

“The perfect ending should take your readers slightly by surprise and yet seem exactly right.” William Zinsser

“Any event that seems to the given reader startling, curious, or interestladen can form a climax of a possible story.” John Gardner

“This is the pattern of a complex plot climax—a climax in action, not merely in discussion. I had to devise an action that dramatized and resolved all of the above conflicts (and many smaller ones), showing in each case which side wins, which one loses, and why.” Ayn Rand

“The climax is the stage at which the worst consequences of the plot-theme conflict come into the open and the characters have to make their final choice.” Ayn Rand

“You can judge a story’s climax by asking: Has it resolved the central conflict? If not, the story is badly constructed.” Ayn Rand

“If you know the plot-theme of your story, you will know what is the proper climax, and whether or not you are letting your story down. If the central conflict merely peters out—or if it is resolved unclearly, so that the reader does not really know what final decisions the characters have made—this is an improper ending.” Ayn Rand

“Never resolve a smaller issue after the climax. In a story with multiple threads, the problems of lesser characters, if not involved in the climax, have to be solved before the climax.” Ayn Rand

“The climax ought to complete, to add the touch that makes the book whole  and organic; that is its task, and that only. It should be free to do what it must without any unnecessary distraction, and nothing need distract it that can be dealt with and despatched at an earlier stage.” Percy Lubbock

“Never hang a gun on the wall in the first act if you don’t intend to have it go off in the third.” Anton Chekhov

“For the climax to be not only persuasive but interesting, it must come about in a way that seems both inevitable and surprising.” John Gardner

“You should end on what is most important.” Flannery O’Connor

“If it was not for death and marriage I do not know how the average novelist would conclude.” E.M. Forster

“There is felt to be an unsatisfactory want of finish in leaving a question hanging out of the book, like a loose end, without some kind of attempt to pull it back and make it part of an integral design.” Percy Lubbock

“When does the novel end? It ends when it has consumed its own material, the actions terminated, the tensions resolved. Just as there must be nothing superfluous in a novel, so there must be nothing left over after it ends.” William Sloane

“A trap is trying too hard to force your novel to a preconceived ending. That’s the central paradox of writing the novel: You have to know where it’s going, but when it speaks to you, shows you a better direction, you have to be ready to abandon you plan and listen to the story. It’s enough to drive you crazy.” Philip Gerard

“There was some kind of ending, but once the story was underway the real ending became inevitable.” Neil Gaiman

“Sometimes the only way I would know that a story had finished was when there weren’t any more words to be written down.” Neil Gaiman

“If you’re writing a story and are confused about the end, go back to the beginning.” Cynthia Ozick

“At the end of the story or novel I must artfully concentrate for the reader an impression of the entire work, and therefore must casually mention something about those whom I have already presented.” Anton Chekhov