The climax of a piece of literature is the point when all plot elements are resolved. The climax is a period of high tension and intensity of emotion, and afterwards readers report a feeling of deep relief and a loss of interest in reading. This may not be true in books with multiple climaxes in which some plot elements are resolved, then after a brief plateau in the action, other plot elements are resolved. It is estimated that 14% of female readers have experienced multiple climaxes, although fewer probably do so regularly.
Types of climax
The types of climax experienced during reading sessions vary, especially with the amount of time it takes to reach the climax. In short stories, the climax is often also briefer, as well as erratic (as if the author is "hurrying"). In very long stories, the climax can occur over a period of time, or in stages; contrast with multiple climaxes, which happen individually.
The types of climax can be organized into 7 groups, depending on intensity.
A type 1 climax is very short or even nonexistent. Often called an "anti-climax," type 1 climaxes often leave the reader unsatisfied and chagrined. Type 1 climaxes often happen with inexperienced or older authors. A person who experiences such a climax can be said to have "blue eyes."
Type 2 climaxes are often experienced by people reading something they themselves have written, or when re-reading a book after already experiencing its climax shortly before. This type of climax is relieving, but some readers still feel as if it did not live up to expectations.
Type 3 climaxes are of normal intensity, and happen most often in novellas or short books. A type 3 climax satisfies both the reader (by resolving all plot elements) and the author (who will feel his or her work has been completed to an acceptable degree).
A type 4 climax is the most-experienced type, and will happen most often in books of normal length. This type of climax is marked by contorted facial expressions, intense happiness ( with a "warm gun", and verbalization of desire to read even more, followed by an immediate loss of interest in reading following climax. Many male readers have reported that their books will become closed shortly after the climax.
A type 5 climax is more intense than a type 4, and can happen if the reader has not experienced a climax in a long time. Type 5 climaxes often present themselves in works of substantial length. These climaxes usually leave the reader feeling extremely tired and lackadaisical. A feeling of happiness and contentness with the world can continue well after a type 5 climax, sometimes for hours.
Type 6 climaxes are the most intense climaxes. They will happen in works of the greatest length (for example, Moby Dick). Type 6 climaxes are experienced very rarely by readers, and can leave such readers feeling totally sapped of energy. Most readers will be unable to experience another climax for some time after a type 6 climax.
Type 7 climaxes, or multiple climaxes, can happen in works of any length. Each individual climax may resemble a type 1 or type 2 climax, though the "rolling" sensation of going through each one can produce effects more closely related to a type 5 or type 6 climax. Type 7 climaxes present themselves in a small fraction of books, as the number of authors able to consistently induce one is small.
Effects on the reader
Reaching the climax is the most-often cited reason for reading, according to a number of studies on the subject. However, perhaps paradoxically, many readers will attempt to prolong the climax by reading it slowly. Many other readers, however, also report a feeling of urgentness to discover what will happen upon reaching the climax, and will often speed up their reading accordingly.
Numerous methods of reaching the climax quickly have been developed over the ages; one of the oldest and most well-used is to simply skip pages until one finds it. This, however, can reduce the intensity of the climax.
In the elderly, climaxes may feel less intense on average, due to a feeling of "having read the same basic thing before" (Clinsey, Climaxes and the Reader, page 112). Many older people report a complete lack of desire to read, while others are unable to due to failing eyesight. Prescriptions to fix the latter have been recently developed, however.
Males and females experience climaxes very differently. A male reaching climax tends to become entirely focused on the book in front of him, losing his sense of placement in space and perception of the surrounding environment. Females, on the other hand, can become "hyper-aware," with all senses going into overdrive. Females will usually be more vocal than males about having reached the climax, and will feel a loosening of body muscles during the peak of the experience.
With the advent of the internet, many stories are readable online, allowing for today's average person to experience far more climaxes than a person in pre-internet times would. This is largely due to the proliferation of books online, and the development of websites which grant users access to a veritable library from the comfort of their own home. This can remove the stigma often felt by people buying books at bookstores, and thus use of books has increased manifold.
The internet has also allowed for the development of niche markets in stories, catering to people who wish to experience climaxes in unorthodox ways. These sites are often derided by other web users as being "weird" (take for instance the many sites whose climaxes revolve around animal/human hybrids). Other niche markets for climaxes, such as stories where the main character is tied up in a trap during the climax, or stories whose climaxes break from the action to describe the shoes worn by the heroine, have also gained popularity.