2 Ways to Make the Most of Your Story’s Climactic Setting

This week’s video points out some little-known considerations about creating an awesome and perfectly planned climactic setting for your story.

Video Transcript:

If we think of a story as sort of like a funnel, then the climax is the very tip of that funnel. In short, there’s not much room down there. Whatever is going on in the story’s climax has to be pertinent and streamlined. It has to be lean and mean and ready to do business.

But this truth is often overlooked when it comes to the climactic setting. Today, let’s break down the qualities of a good climactic setting into two really important things—and for the final time, let’s consider how Jurassic Park did both of these things really well.

The first consideration when it comes to your climactic setting is size. Don’t forget our funnel metaphor. We often think of the climax as being the big part of the story, but this is also where our story is funneled down until it’s as tight as it can be.

We’re forcing the characters into their final confrontation, and the closer the confines—the more we’re smashing protagonist and antagonist together—the higher and more riveting the stakes. And by the way, this isn’t just about forcing characters together physically. It’s also about mental tension, so this principle is just as true of conversational climaxes as it is action-oriented ones.

The second consideration is foreshadowing. A resonant climactic setting will always be one that is either revisited in some capacity—or one that was hinted at earlier. This allows you to bring the story full circle.

So how are these requirements handled in Jurassic Park? One of its major climactic settings is the park’s control room, where the protagonists are trapped by the raptors while trying to reboot the computers. This is a comparatively small room that gives the protagonists seemingly no way out.

And was it foreshadowed? Yep, it’s featured prominently throughout the story, which allows it to be a perfectly logical place for the characters to end up.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion? What is your chosen climactic setting in your work-in-progress? How does it fulfill these two guidelines? Tell me in the comments!


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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. thomas h cullen says

    As “Seeds of Yesterday” came to a close (the Lifetime adaptation), I’d felt the intended sorrow.. Despite their years, of everyday life and of being away from the attic, Cathy’s back to square one.

    Christopher, her brother, but more importantly lifelong companion, had grown to become an adult male, experiencing all that fully grown men ought to be expected to experience – yet, in and around the time of his death, his life status had been demoted back to someone of Foxworth Hall (hence the sadness).

    I don’t know if you saw it, Katie, but the message ” you deserve a house, for free” I’ve been typing all across YouTube – up to 1,000 people!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Nope, guess I missed that one.

      • thomas h cullen says

        When the Tsar’s family were executed, in July, of 1917, they’d actually been in the company of Michael Jordan, shooting his winning 1998 NBA Championship final shot..

        The woman, in Louisiana, dressed in a costly outfit who’s listening to her music on her front porch by herself: she’s on train, from London to Manchester..

        The Yemen national army; they’re also present, at a job interview somewhere in Israel..

        Situated far within a forest, but, out on an open field, the young man who’s currently looking to the sun doesn’t realise that he’s part of a large crowd, who’re all listening to Barack Obama speak..

        This is final knowledge Katie – the knowledge, that “absolutely everywhere all of reality exists at all times”.

  2. robert easterbrook says

    The setting was foreshadowed early – the protagonist’s house – a confined space. But I’m not sure about anything else at this stage.

    If theme is the stories general question then the climax supplies the answer, one way or the other – K.M. Weiland. In other words, is what the protagonist believes about the theme true or false?

    In the beginning, my protagonist believes the theme is false because that’s what everyone believes. But by the end of the story she comes to believe the theme is true and this results in an unhappy ending because … were you paying attention? 😛

  3. The climax of my current novel takes place in two locations at the same time. As you say, streamlining it is important, but the two plot threads are very closely intertwined. I hope it’s not too scattered.

    My other project, a radio play, ends with an ambush inside a mill. I don’t think there’s a problem there.

    Thanks for giving me something to ponder today!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Often, in sprawling stories, cutting between two separate confrontations in separate settings can be very effective. These same principles would apply to both settings.

  4. This is so spot-on. I actually did both these things without even realizing it in my novel (although I wrote my novel in the most movie-like way possible, so I suppose it fits). I ended up foreshadowing the fact that a main character would be put in incredible danger at the end, but I pulled the rug out at the last minute and switched roles so the character who was in danger ended up saving the rescuers. It was really fun to write! 🙂

    Thanks as always for your great content!!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Sounds like fun! And this is definitely a principle that applies the same in novels as in movies.


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