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De-escalating a Climax (Life is Strange: Before the Storm)

Updated: Sep 1, 2021

This post is a continuation of my previous post, although you can read and understand it independently.

For a writer, one of the hardest parts of writing a story is the one proceeding a rising climax. After a major event or confrontation, the one that was built up throughout the story, what do you do afterwards? Do you just skip ahead to when things are calmer, or linger onto the scene and let it de-escalate naturally at the risk of lagging? It is not an easy decision to make and requires both experience and trial and error. Well, what I want to discuss is how the calm, or more accurately, the gaze at the desolation after the storm is handled, and for that, funnily enough, I have to talk about Life is Strange: Before the Storm.

For Chloe, that train ride with Rachel was the most important decision she ever made. Trusting Rachel led to a rollercoaster of emotions which made an otherwise predictable storyline into an interesting series of events. Chloe, much like most of the players, does not know the kind of person Rachel is. The original story left her character ambiguous, so we, too, face the series of trust and doubts Chloe does. Seeing that Chloe was able to find a reason to, as she would put it, "Give a shit about something" through Rachel, Rachel earns our trust. That is why, when she ends up abandoning a panicked and broken Chloe, there is a strong sense of betrayal which can only be forgotten through an even stronger and violent outcome.

While the destruction is not the big ending of the episode, it IS the climax. This is the rising scene which is directly related to the theme of the episode. The conclusion for this scene was exhaustion, mental, physical and emotional. Chloe sees her dad's car, destroyed as it was after the accident. For Chloe, there was one more person here who was to blame for her suffering. She started destroying the car even further.

This is where we start to calm things down. The game had already steered the plot in the direction of Chloe and her father, so ending the scene here was just a waste. So, the writers used Chloe's chronic nightmares to string together a series of events that perfectly put all of Chloe's thoughts on the pedestal. Now, after this beatdown, we move to a nightmare sequence where Chloe talks to her dad in his car. For Chloe, this became so common that she used this to communicate to her dad. This was the only way she knew how.

You see how the game neither lingered onto the destruction, nor did it simply cut away? Through solid writing and establishing essential relationships, it allowed us to, through an exhausted Chloe, get to the progression of the scene which put Chloe at the centre of the story. Through her relationship with William, Chloe understands that Rachel's only deception that day was acting like Chloe was not important to her.

She goes on to find her not far from where she was. Now, after everything, it was Rachel's turn to open up to Chloe, and she did. Usually, in good stories, the audience learns more after the climax than it does during. For the audience, Rachel is no longer an ethereal being, she was someone broken and wanted reality to be different from what it is. She hated Arcadia Bay because she believed that it is responsible for not preparing her for anything real, and that she HAD to get out. Remind you of anyone?

Life is Strange also did so in episode 2 of its story. After you save (or fail to save) Kate Marsh, you are faced with an eclipse and make a decision to start investigating Blackwell. Between these two scenes, there is a thematic de-escalation where Max is forced to scapegoat the entire problem onto one of the three antagonists of the story.

Many writers choose not to end their story on a climactic high, especially if there are more parts of the story to follow. One thing to help you connect a climax with an expositional or a passive plot-relevant scene is a thematic one which deals with the events of the climax.

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