Crisis: The point in a plot when the conflict has intensified to a level at which the protagonist’s lot will change decisively, whether for the better or for the worse. The crisis is sometimes called the turning point because it represents the pivotal moment when the protagonist’s fortunes begin to turn. The term crisis, which refers to a purely structural element of plot, is sometimes but not always synonymous with climax, which also (and perhaps especially) signifies the point of greatest tension or emotional intensity in a plot. Thus, though the crisis and climax of a work often occur together, this need not be the case.
Some critics also apply the terms crisis and climax to minor peaks in the plot that change or intensify the course of the action. Most critics, however, limit the use of the term crisis to the plot’s ultimate turning point.
EXAMPLE: In the movie Dead Poets Society (1989), the main character, Neil, decides to perform in a play even though his father has forbidden it. The crisis occurs when his father finds out and shows up at the play, from which point Neil’s fortunes decline progressively, ending with his suicide.