Tag Archives: plot line

Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – part 24: Way up High in the Sky

Welcome back! Over the next several more months we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison’s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read all the segments by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month twenty-four:


“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 24: Way up High in the Sky

When my husband graduated from college, we decided to celebrate with a trip to the Rocky Mountains. As we drove west across the plains, we scanned the edge of the horizon for those fabled peaks, but mile after mile, no matter how carefully we looked, we couldn’t see any mountains. We did notice a hazy jagged band of white clouds, but we ignored them, until we finally realized that they weren’t clouds at all. They were the snow-capped peaks of the Rockies, not at the horizon as we had envisioned, but way up high in the sky. We were amazed!

800px-Mount_Massive (Photo by Rick Kimpel Jr., Common Domain)

As you know, mountain peaks and valleys are often used as a metaphor for the plot line of a story. When your readers approach the high climax of your novel, you want them to catch that same feeling of awe that Neil and I experienced when we first saw the Rocky Mountains. From chapter one, page one, you have guided your readers toward a moment of emotional intensity: joy or heartache or amazement or happiness or fulfillment. Carrying your readers to that high level requires a bit of magic beyond my ability to explain, but I hope the following tips help as you work to achieve that goal.

1. Your reader will not be lifted to a climactic level of emotion unless the character they love most or hate most is experiencing a similar emotional high or emotional release.

2. You need to ramp up the intensity of your novel through the rhythm of your words and the length of your sentences and paragraphs. (You might want to review Writing the Third Dimension #18, Tension.)

3. For the primary climax of  your novel, you should narrow your focus to the main plot line and the main characters.

4. The climax is not something tacked on or patched in, it’s the natural fulfillment of the plot line.

5.  And of course, you show, don’t tell. Nothing breaks the rise of emotion like a short, pat sentence as a substitute for action. “He released his anger.” “She would love him forever.” “The butler did it.”  ARGH! NO! Don’t tell me. Give me an action scene. Please…

I’ve had two very separate experiences when writing the climax of a novel. Usually, the words just flow, and the first draft, although not perfect, is better than I had hoped. But sometimes I have to write the climax again and again and again. How do I know when it’s right? It makes me smile, and it makes me cry. What better place for a writer to be than way up high in the sky, standing on top of the world, ready to give his or her readers the gift of tears, the gift of a smile?

Strength to your pen!


*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two bestselling Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy – all of which went digital in May 2013. She also wrote a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you to come back February 26, 2015, for part 25.