Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The climax of a narrative work is its point of highest tension or drama.
In classical culture, perhaps reflecting in part low literacy levels, analysis of fictional narratives focused on drama, and identified patterns for comedy (in the sense of drama with a "happy ending") and tragedy (in the sense of drama with an "unhappy ending"). The principles involved generally remain important in modern narrative literature, and include identification of the climax.
In a prose work of fiction, the climax often resembles that of the classical comedy, occurring approximately two-thirds to three-quarters of the way through the text or performance, after the rising action and before the falling action. It is the moment of greatest danger for the hero(s) and usually consists of a seemingly inevitable prospect of failure, followed by a hard-to-anticipate recovery.
While the novel, short story, poetry and drama are the focus of much literary analysis, late 20th century literary criticism also recognizes the important similarities, including the climax, of new genres like the feature film.
Arguably, the punch line of a joke is a good analogue of the climax of other forms of fictional narrative, though the absence of any falling action is an essential variation probably reflecting the nature of humor.
In many non-fictional narrative genres, even though the author lacks the same freedom to control the action and "plot", selection of subject matter, degree of detail, and emphasis permit an author to create similar structures. This can sometimes be recognizable even in some highly constrained genres, such as patient records and peer-reviewed scholarly writings, and need not amount to a breach of professional standards.
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