The climax is the crucial part of the plot in which the reader experiences the highest sense of emotional involvement with the story. It typically occurs near the end of the narrative, after the writer has prepared the reader with the preceding parts of the plot, which are often referred to as the basic situation (or exposition) and the rising action. Most stories follow the climax with the falling action and the resolution (or denouement).
In most modern stories (especially movies) the climax is easily recognizable by all the explosions and fighting going on. Unfortunately, this pattern has become so common that it’s not very interesting anymore. Many climaxes also reveal a plot “twist,” (also known as situational irony) in which the reader or viewer is supposed to be surprised by an unexpected revelation (the killer turns out to be somebody entirely different than the cops were looking for). This has also been done to death and is now actually often expected and entirely unsurprising.
Classic stories that have survived for decades or centuries usually offer a more substantial and lifelike climax. The Odyssey, composed about 3000 years ago, climaxes with the emotional reunion of the Odysseus and his son, Telemachus. There is plenty of violent swordplay before and after this scene, but not during it.
In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, many people consider the climax to occur when Romeo learns of Juliet’s death (which, unbeknownst to Romeo, has not actually occurred). Here, the climax occurs when the main characters are not even together, and is fueled by a misunderstanding that ultimately leads to both of their deaths.