Climax is the term used to refer to the part of story or play where the tension or action reaches its highest part. Sometimes, the climax is a "crisis" point in the plot. Sometimes, it is just where things "come to a head" and something happens or the main character must make a decision that will lead to one outcome or another.
Those who analyze literature often represent the plot of a story with the diagram below. The climax is represented by the high point, and the action of the story begins to fall from there, until problems are resolved.
Examples of Climax in a Plot
1. A little girl has been looking for her lost dog. She hears a bark coming from around the corner, and she looks around to see . . .
2. Kevin has worked very hard to try out for the soccer team at school. The coach has posted a list of this year's team members on his office door. Kevin walks forward to look at the list . . . .
3. Mary's parents have been discussing whether or not to move to another state. They call Mary and her sister down to talk with them about their decision . . .
4. Lois has performed in the state gymnastics finals. She waits anxiously to hear the names of the winners. The announcer says, "And first place goes to . . ."
5. The school's football team is down by three points in the fourth quarter. They are in field goal range. The kicker kicks, the ball is up, and the kick is . . . (good or bad?).
Examples of Climax in Famous Literary Plots
1. The deaths of Romeo (who kills himself because he thinks Juliet is dead) and Juliet (who kills herself when she awakes and sees Romeo dead). Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare
2. Peeta and Katniss agree to eat the poisonous berries instead of attempt to kill each other (and the outcome is that they are both declared winners). The Hunger Games
3. Wilbur is declared the winner at the county fair, and his life is saved (the farmer will not butcher him). Charlotte's Web
4. When Gaston and the townspeople come to attack the beast, and Belle admits her love for the beast. Beauty and the Beast, Disney
5. In "The Three Little Pigs," suspense builds up until the confrontation between the third pig and the wolf. This confrontation is the climax.