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IWW Practice-W Exercise Archives
Exercise: Aftermath

These exercises were written by IWW members and administrators to provide structured practice opportunities for its members. You are welcome to use them for practice as well. Please mention that you found them at the Internet Writers Workshop (http://www.internetwritingwor kshop.org/).

Prepared by: Patricia Johnson
Posted on: Sun, 12 Aug 2001


The climax of a story is the key event or crisis dealing with the central conflict of the story. After the crisis, there is a decline in the story's action which moves toward resolution. This may be called the anticlimax, or aftermath. Like a wrap-up, this aftermath explains loose ends of the story. It gives a sense of resolution and closure. Story details are put in order, concerns are addressed. The aftermath winds the story down and finalizes it. It addresses what happens to main characters after the climax. It may hint at what characters may do next. It can use an image, a thought, or an action to end the story. An aftermath sometimes asks new questions.

The aftermath may reflect back on the story. It gives a last impression of the book and solidifies the theme.

In Charles Frazier's book, Cold Mountain, a Confederate soldier named Inman deserts after being wounded, and walks home through the Blue Ridge Mountains. The climax is Inman's death when he is almost home, in the arms of his lover, Ada. The aftermath, which Frazier wrote as an epilogue, shows Ada home safe on her farm, she is now a mother to his child who he will never know. We see Ada with her family around a fire where the children are dancing. Ada is reading a book about Baucis and Philemon. Everyone is safe and well. Here is the last paragraph:

"When Ada reached the story's conclusion, and the old lovers after long years together in peace and harmony had turned to oak and linden, it was full dark. The night was growing cool, and Ada put the book away. A crescent moon stood close upon Venus in the sky. The children were sleepy, and morning would dawn as early and demanding as always. Time to go inside and cover up the coals and pull in the latchstring."

We see that the family has gone on since Inman died, that their lives are demanding. There is also a sense of loss, their lives would be fuller if Inman had lived. We sense how his absence is felt by the main characters, especially Ada. They are safe on their farm, assured that tomorrow will bring more work. They have time to celebrate around a fire at the end of the day. The reader knows Ada has time to read and imagine in her life. Perhaps we can even imagine and speculate as to the future of Ada and her child.

Exercise: Write a brief climax to a story. Follow the climax with an aftermath. You may want to rewrite an aftermath to a well-know literary work, or you may want to write your own story climax and aftermath. Remember to make the climax brief, and concentrate on the aftermath. Keep the exercise word count to 300 words or less.

Patricia Johnson's wrap-up
Posted on: Sat, 18 Aug 2001

This week's submissions on aftermath revealed the use of several interesting techniques. Some of the techniques used were dialogue, asking questions, memories, and flashbacks. Epilogues were used as a technique as were division marks on the page - such as an extra line space or a solid line across the page. It is interesting to note that when dialogue was used, both the climax and aftermath were easily revealed at the beginning of a story.

In general, the transitions from climax to aftermath were smooth. Many of the submissions had the climax and the aftermath interwoven instead of separate. This was accomplished through the use of memories and flashbacks. Sometimes more of the climax was revealed which took more of the story's allotted word count. One writer mentioned that it was difficult to summarize the climax in such a brief word count.

The subject matter varied; it seemed the subject did not restrict the ability to write a summarized climax and aftermath. The submissions succeeded very well in defining the aftermath. Thanks to everyone who participated and made this exercise a success.

Web site created by Rhéal Nadeau and the administrators of the Internet Writing Workshop.
Modified by Gayle Surrette.