I found this post by Tina Jens at Black Gate intriguing.
Jens is ranting about an unnamed book, and says:
[Y]ou don’t get to leave out the middle of the third act! It would only have been a couple scenes; they could have been done in as little as 4 or 5 pages (though 8-10 would have been better), but they were important scenes. You can’t just toss the events off in a couple of graphs of narrative summary in the scene you jump to.
You had built that villain into a bad mo-fo: you can’t cheat us out of the meat of their encounter! … The big bad-ass villain came across as a paper-tiger, and so, I wound up being much less impressed by the wherewithal of the protags to defeat him. They were all afraid of him, but without a longer section up-close and personal with him in the third act, he didn’t scare me. He seemed like a caricature.
After reading the entire post, I decided that “middle of the third act” must constitute an important chunk of the climax.
So I am trying to think of a story where the author skipped over one or more climactic scenes. And right at the moment, I can’t think of any.
I can think of books where the author set up a huge, important mystery and left it unsolved: IN THE WOODS by Tana French. Which was a book where the good guy totally screwed up his life and the bad guy totally won, so I hated the book for reasons that had nothing to do with the unsolved mystery.
I can think of books where the author seemed to kind of stop before the proper ending, and then wrote a long epilogue rather than actually finishing the story: UNDER HEAVEN by Guy Gavriel Kay. A book I loved despite this and now that I’m thinking of it, I really want to re-read it.
I can definitely think of books where the protagonist stopped short of dealing with the problem when the opportunity was totally offered to her, thus requiring an extra 300 pages of toil and suffering before finally achieving the victory that was in her grasp far earlier: MYSTIC AND RIDER, or at least one of the Twelve Houses books by Sharon Shinn, not sure if the scene I’m thinking of was in the first book or later in the series. I love Shinn, but that kind of thing drives me nuts.
I can think of any number of books where the author took the plot in a direction I didn’t like and I stomped around thinking I would have done it way better.
But at the moment, I can’t think of a single book where the author simply neglected to write the climactic scenes, skipping lightly over the confrontation with the Dark Lord in order to get the the happily-ever-after denouement. And I say that as a writer who almost always loves writing the denouement and would fairly often be okay with skipping over the climactic scenes.
So…. how about you? Can any of you think of a book where the author left out the middle of the third act? Did you like the book despite that, or did you wind up throwing it across the room like Tina Jens?