Monday, February 7, 2011

Love is a Battlefield - Rockin' the Black Moment

Every great romance builds up to an intense moment in which the hero and heroine can see no way out. They’ll never overcome the obstacles holding them back. They’ll never have that white picket fence. No bouncing babies for them. They may even face death.

Writers have come to call this the Black Moment. If your book or novella doesn’t have it, make no mistake, you will leave reader disappointed.

Creating the black moment is like walking a tightrope three hundred feet above a concrete parking lot with no safety net. You lean a little toward the left and rush through the black moment, you’ve cheated the reader. They’ve followed the characters through their journey, flipped the pages in anticipation of that Big Bang at the end of the book, always wondering what will happen. Will the hero and heroine make it through the Petrified Forest and survive the field of ghouls waiting for them? If that field of ghouls ends up being a few slobbering, easily-defeated monsters, then you’ve just fallen off the tightrope.

If you lean a little too far to the right and drag out the black moment, you have a reader whose ready to put down the book due to over-stimulation. I know you’ve read a book like that -- a battle that goes on and on and on, until you want to kill the characters yourself just to end the suffering (theirs and yours).

And don’t get me started on The Misunderstanding. That plotting fail deserves a blog post all its
own. I’ll just say this: if your hero and heroine can solve everything with a simple conversation, you haven’t just fallen off the tightrope, you’ve incinerated the damn thing.

So how do you know what your black moment should be? Most plotters will know the black moment before they begin writing chapter one. Plotters can work their way to the black moment, sprinkling in some foreshadowing and teasers since they know exactly where they’re going.

Creating the black moment can be a little harder for pantsers. Just ask yourself this question when you get close to the end: What are my characters working toward? What will bring them to their knees? What would destroy their very WILL TO LIVE?

Your character’s goal is the KEY to your black moment. So…your heroine has to get through the Petrified Forest in order to save her daughter who’s being held in a castle (Her goal). The hero is there to help, of course. He’s the King’s son – an outcast who knows that dangerous forest like the back of his hand. He’s determined to claim his kingdom now that his father has passed (His goal). Their SOLE MISSION: Get through the Petrified Forest alive. Their ULTIMATE MISSION : Save daughter/Become king.

What possible black moment can we whip up from this?

Let me introduce you to the beauty of the black moment = SACRIFICE.

Sacrifice can lead to heroism. Heroism comes from making a difficult choice, but deciding the outcome is worth it, which leads right back to sacrifice. As Jack from Meet the Parents would say: “This is the circle of trust.” The reader TRUSTS you to deliver the sacrifice aspect in the black moment. You don’t want to merely finish the book, you want to finish strong. Some authors think the black moment is when everything comes falling down around the characters – which is true. However, if a sacrifice hasn’t been made, what have the characters given up to achieve their goal? Don’t just hand the characters a HEA, make them work for it.

A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself. ~ Joseph Campbell

Did you think the ghouls at the edge of the forest would lead to the black moment? I guess it could. But let’s take the black moment a little further. After battling the ghouls the hero and heroine are absolutely exhausted and wounded. They still have to save the child.

What if saving the child meant the hero would never become king? Sacrifice – check.

What if saving her daughter meant certain death for the heroine? Sacrifice – check.

You can play around with What Ifs all day long. There are so many great outcomes, which is what makes reading a book so wonderful. You never know what’s going to happen, because each author would take a different route or create a unique twist on the black moment of any given plot.

Just remember that the black moment is a *temporary* disaster that must be overcome to achieve the HEA if you’re writing a romance, and too little or too much will destroy the equilibrium of the plot.

Happy writing. :)

No comments:

Post a Comment