Once the second turning point occurs and the story moves into the third act, the protagonist is thrown deeper into descent. Act 3 ramps up the conflict and the pace. There should be no reprieve. Avoid “saving” your protagonist after the crisis moment. Everything is at stake. When the hero is faced with the most difficult challenges yet, his transformation and triumph have more significance and deliver stronger emotional impact.
Three elements, a well-developed and crafted Transformation, Climax, and Resolution, are essential for delivering a memorable and meaningful story that resonates with the audience.
Transformation occurs when the protagonist makes a proactive, conscious decision to take action to achieve the goal. In the face of overwhelming odds and defeat-after-defeat, the hero resolves to stand and fight no matter what. The Transformation may be the most significant moment in the story – it validates all the efforts of the hero. If the protagonist fails to make a proactive, conscious decision and the conflict is resolved in some unexpected manner (deus ex machina), it creates a contrived ending where the hero has no relevance or connection to the story. Transformation usually occurs just before the climactic scene or during the Climax.
CLIMAX & RESOLUTION
To resolve the dramatic tension, the hero must defeat the antagonist in some way during the Climax. Remember, the antagonist represents the internal conflict that the hero struggles with (the fatal flaw he must overcome), and the Climax scene (or series of scenes) relates directly to the overall Theme. It’s important that the thematic throughline is paid-off during the Climax or you risk negating the relevance of the story and confusing the audience.
The Resolution is an important story element because it conveys the idea that there is life after hardship and that transformation brings possibilities. Even scripts with “tragic” endings (such as Chinatown or The Wrestler) inform the audience by showing what can happen if we fail to embrace change or commit to overcoming obstacles in our own lives.
Does your story’s climax relate directly to the theme you have developed? Is there a moment of transformation in the third act where your hero makes a conscious decision to take action and achieve the goal?