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Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel Revised and Expanded Edition, 2nd Edition by Sara Paretsky, Hallie Ephron

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Chapter 23

Writing the Final Climax

“The best surprise endings don’t merely surprise the reader. In addition, they force him to reevaluate everything that has preceded them so that he views the actions and the characters in a different light and has a new perspective on all that he’s read.”

—Lawrence Block

Near the end of a mystery novel, the story builds to a dramatic crescendo as the protagonist and the villain face off. Hercule Poirot might have rounded up the suspects and played whodunit in the parlor. In modern novels, there’s usually a physical fight, a chase, or a cat-and-mouse game with survival at stake.

During the climax, these things usually happen:

  • The protagonist hits bottom.
  • The protagonist rebounds.
  • The villain reveals what happened ...

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