Shake it Up: Climactic Moments

Sunday at church a few of us adults were peeping in children’s church listening to our amazing children’s pastor talk about pressure.

He had a coke can, shaking it up, talking about pressures that mount up and build. He kept talking and shaking, weaving in and out of children.

Most of them ducked. A few raised their hands as if to say, “Pick me! Explode that joker right on my head!”

A few adult comments made outside the window were:

“If he opens that, who’s cleaning it up?”

“The janitors are gonna be maaaad.”

“Is he really going to open that on a kid?”

“I hope he opens that on a kid.” (Okay, so that’s what I said!)

His voice built, his pace increased, and the can just kept shaking. He put it over one child’s head…the crowd ooohed. He raised it over another. The crowd aaahed.



He opened the can.


The man behind me said, “Well, that was rather anti-climactic. I’ve been waiting all this time for an explosion.”

And I thought…

That’s exactly what not to do in a book.

I read a book recently that kept me on the edge of my seat, like the can, shaking and shaking but it didn’t deliver an explosion. It didn’t even fall flat. It was empty, and I was disappointed because up until then, I was hooked.

By all means, when writing, shake the can. Keep it going, but when you pop the tab–be sure there’s an explosion.

If you build excitement and suspense, then pop the tab on the crowd, no one will care when foam runs down their face, stains the carpet, or sticks to their skin. They’ll be thrilled. They’ll show it to everyone, and they’ll smile and sigh in satisfaction.

Here’s 3 things that make a book shake for me as a reader:
1. Romantic tension–lots of it 
2. Mystery– Please have some secrets, lies, and twists I can’t see coming
3. Escalating scenes with an increase in pace

The Explosion: When all of the above collides. BAM! The secrets are revealed and the reactions are intense, the twists become unraveled, and the hero and heroine finally…finally…have their steamy moment or the one that actually puts them together! Okay, now the Parent Trap song is in my head. “Let’s get together, yeah, yeah, yeah…” Oh, gag.

Writers: What do you do to shake your can so there’s an explosion? Share your tips!

Readers: What books have you read that feel like they’ve exploded? If you talk about one that fell flat, please don’t include the title, that’s somebody’s baby! 🙂

Have a great weekend! See ya on Monday.

20 thoughts on “Shake it Up: Climactic Moments

  1. That was a great story about the soda can! (and you're too funny with your comments) LOL

  2. You are so funny! I was thinking the whole time, "That is going to be so disgusting, but it would be hilarious to explode that on a kid's head." The surprise would have been worth it.

    Empty? You are so right, writers can't do this.

  3. Love, love, love this post. So incredibly true. We need to keep shaking the can – building anticipating – and let the sucker explode at the end.

    So….curiosity has me. What was the pastor's point with the empty can? Sounds very engaging!

  4. I'm still working on figuring out how to shake the can. :o) I figure that if I stay around you long enough, it'll rub off, ya think?

    I'm with you though, I love books that have an "explosion" at the end.

  5. Jennifer: It was pretty fun to watch!

    Heather: If he had really exploded it on the kids, I'd so have a picture to post of it!

    Katie: Truth? After he opened it and it was empty, we were all so let down we went back to doing what we were supposed to be…watching babies! LOL

    Sheri: Girl, you're crazy! You got all kinds of explosions in your WIP!

  6. Funny. Love the post.

    As writers, I think the visual says it all – we must keep shaking the can before we pop the tab.

    I love a good explosive ending.

  7. LOL, I was thinking the same thing as Katie… I wonder what his final point was???

    And TOTALLY agree! You need that big explosion at the end. The one that makes all the pressure worth it all worth it. The one where you had no clue what colors or what spectacular ending you're gonna see, and when you see it, it's even better than you expected.

  8. I love the visual. Too funny.

    I read a book recently that left me disappointed for this exact reason. I read the entire book, hoping, expecting a certain something and then at the end I was totally disappointed. "That was it?" Bummer!

    So, indeed. Shake that can but give me the wow at the end too. A winning combination!

  9. Ooh, I loved this post…and such a good visual. (Also, I'm now craving my daily diet coke early in the day!) I've had that experience of waiting for the big moment in a book and then reading "The End" and thinking What?! Where was my moment?! So…now I'm thinking about my own WIP and analyzing my own "explosion" and thinking, hmm, possibly I need a little more dynamite…:)

  10. I write kids' books (middle grade) but the idea is the same, even when there's no romance. Build build build, then payoff. I hope I never fall short!

  11. Oh, I hope my book does that! My latest read was My Foolish Heart by Susan May Warren. It wasn't a mystery (I was a little out of my element) but it definitely delivered! High recommendation!

    Funny thing is, I read a mystery a few months ago that didn't deliver. How does a mystery miss the boom?

    Excellent post, Jessica!

  12. Loree: I love explosive endings. Especially ones that leave me with my mouth hanging open1

    Krista: Thanks for coming by! Welcome and you nailed it. Jaw-dropping endings. Oh yeah!

    Lacie: I read one that had me saying the same thing. It had been excellent up until that moment. 🙁

    Melissa: Hi! Thanks for comin by. I'm not a diet Coke drinker, but man I love me a diet A&W rootbeer! 🙂

    Stephanie: I love middle grade fiction, especially since I have a middle grader! Thanks for popping in! 🙂

    Marji: How does a mystery miss the boom? Good question. I read My Foolish Heart and did a review on it somewhere on this blog. 😉 I enjoyed it!

  13. Your children's pastor is great. That's such an illustrative story. I'm going to revise my WIP next week, so I'll make sure that my ending is up to par.

  14. Great post, Jessica! I think you need to go ask the children's pastor what the point was b/c your blog followers are being too insistent. We wanna know!

    As a suspense writer, this is definitely what I strive for–shaking things up until they explode! Dragging intense scenes out, raising the stakes, building on previous tension, twists, turns, and sometimes even a real explosion. lol…

  15. oohhhh– I love this analogy!! I'm going to think of it as I write this romance:)))
    In my last book, I introduced a gun early on and built as to why the woman through it out.

  16. So how did he get that can NOT to blow up with sticky foam all over the place? LOL

    Very good shortlist there about needing romance, mystery, and escalating scenes with increasing pace. Those things will keep a reader glued to a story so they stay up until 3 am reading!!

  17. I can't believe the can never exploded! I'm going to snag this lesson for our women's ministry, we talking about living lives of hope in chaotic times. The can fits right in:)

    I'm finishing up. "The Help." It's the perfect example of explosions all over the place!

  18. Okay ya'll my children's pastor poked holes in the bottom of the can to let the soda out. He did this so the can wouldn't explode all over the kids. The top still pops freaking everyone out but no explosion! The lesson was about how you handle pressure. Do you explode or let God handle it…I'm paraphrasing!

  19. What a great analogy, lol I certainly hope my stories deliver an exploding stream of diet A&W all over the page! 😉

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