Day 22 of 30-Day Tarot Writing Challenge: Building the Climax

Table of Contents

You’re doing well, you’re almost to the home stretch. Only eight more days to go and we will have written ourselves a novel! I hope that you’re giving yourself treats along the way, because this is quite the feat.

Tomorrow we’re going to look at how to construct the climax itself, but today is about that build toward the climax. This means that you need to get the stakes higher, build the tension, make sure the inner conflict is ringing pretty high, and that the external conflict is resonating with that.

Hopefully by now you already know how your MC is going to lose the accompaniment of their mentor and their sidekick, and hopefully, too, you’ll know when that all is going to happen in your story. Only you know that, so I can’t tell you if your MC is hurtling toward the Climax with a team or flying solo. But I can help you create the snowball effect to heighten the tension.

The Spread

You have two options for choosing a signifier:

  1. Pick a signifier which represents the core message of the story. If you think back to the theme of the story, what card best represents this theme? This could take some meditation and consideration, but it might equally yield better results for your reading.
  2. Pick a signifier which represents your MC. Of course this seems obvious, but the MC is just one aspect of the story. However, since the external conflict should relate to your MC’s internal conflict and overall character arch, it is perfectly acceptable and useful to choose this as a signifier.

Card 1: External Urgency

The first card of the spread is going to indicate what heightens the sense of urgency for your character. This could be something unrelated to your Antagonist, or it could be something that your Antagonist has done. Your MC’s little sister could have a softball game your MC promised to be at, thus there is a time crunch to slay the dragon (because you just can’t disappoint mini sport-stars-to-be!), or it could be that the dragon has settled on the little league game itself, thus creating an urgency so that there aren’t burnt and crunchy softball players.

Card 2: Internal Urgency

As you read this card, consider the goal, known or unknown to your MC, of the character arch. What is it that your character has to learn and evolve to by the end of the book? There should be an internal conflict so far which resonates with this. It is the thing they have to get over in order to evolve.

Keeping this in mind, Card 2 sets in stone the obstacle they must overcome, and creates the urgency to do so.

Card 3: Internal and External Relation

Card 3 represents how the internal conflict and the external conflict are related. Again, this is important as one should support the other in some way. For example, if your MC has a fear of flying that must be overcome (internal conflict) and the only way to catch the jewel thief is to corner them on a plane in the air (external conflict), then in order to resolve the external conflict is to resolve or at least face the internal conflict.

Card 4: External Stakes

Card 4 is going to amp up the external stakes. It’s going to either add an element that makes it even more important that that the MC faces the Antagonist, or it’s going to make a situation even worse.

This is similar to Card 1, but while Card 1 is creating the obstacle, Card 4 is upping the what it’s worth to the MC. If you’re familiar with Poker, Card 1 is getting the first hand and seeing the Flop, Card 4 is seeing the River and placing the final bets.

Card 5: Internal Stakes

Card 5 is the internal version of Card 4, as you might have guessed. It drives home the importance of the completion of the character arch.

My Accountability

Personally, I’m going to select my MC representation card (8 of Pentacles) for the signifier rather than a card representing the theme of the story. The reason being that I feel like his internal conflict is far more interesting than the theme itself. But I’m also into stories and writing because I believe in the development of understanding of the human condition, rather than the adventure of the plot.

Card 1: External Urgency

For Card 1 I got the Page of Pentacles. I’m a little conflicted as to what to do with this card. I have always kind of seen this card as a secondary representation of my MC, seeing as he’s an aspiring businessman, or at least, just starting out with getting his business. But obviously this doesn’t work as an External problem. However, in this card there is a naiveté about the depiction of this particular page, and I think that this leans toward someone younger. I have a couple of option, though I think this is going to be me going back and writing a character in.

The seemingly secondary plot is that people have been going missing as the dolls are appearing, and thus, I think the most recent person to go missing is either the initial business-owner’s kid, or someone who’s wanting to apprentice under my MC, who maybe he saw as a nuisance, but not enough to actually see anything bad happen to.

Card 2: Internal Urgency

Interesting. I got the 6 of Wands reversed, which in traditional meanings would still be a positive card, just not as positive as the up-right version. However, I think I’m going to take the opposite meaning to this, being that it looks like Percyval is going to fail, and he truly believes it. He’s in despair as a result.

I say this is interesting as it looks as though it’s the Hero at the Mercy of the Villain sort of situation, which I was going to hold off until later for. But it could just be a small hopeless situation, perhaps?

However, when I did the spread for the first scene, the goal for the first scene was this exact card, and thus I think this ties nicely in with that.

Card 3: Internal and External Relations

I got the 2 of Pentacles (again). If you recall, this is the lesson that is learned from the Mentor that is carried with my MC, it is also the card associated with how they met, and it showed up in the Demise of the Antagonist Spread.

So, what this says to me is that both the internal and external urgencies can be resolved by the lesson learned from the Mentor, which is the 2 of Pentacles, which I just haven’t figured out…yet.

Card 4: External Stakes

I got the Star for this. This is a difficult one. So what’s at risk as a result of this missing apprentice wannabe? I think that if he can’t resolve this, then he has to give up his hopes and dreams. He’ll essentially banish himself, and just live as a beggar because he won’t be able to live with having failed that kid.

Card 5: Internal Stakes

I got the 3 of Pentacles reversed, which I think is exactly the same as the External Stakes. They’re related. He won’t be able to live with himself, and he’ll give up his practice. After all, it’s his practice that caused all of this. Well, and his ill-placed ambition.

A card fell out while I was shuffling, which I put to one side. This was Temperance. Intuitively, I want to pair it with the Star, though just yet I’m not sure how yet.

Helpful Links

Are you pumped for the climax? Intimidated? Already past it? Tell me about it in the comments!

In the meantime, here are some links that might be helpful:


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