Writing Tip – Turning Up the Heat Part 5: The Black Moment

WritingHintsPhotoIn previous weeks I have been discussing turning up the heat in your story as a way to build toward the climactic event. Here are more ways to make the action sizzle.

  1. Impossible Dilemmas
  2. Double Jeopardy
  3. The Black Moment
  4. The Point of No Return
  5. All Factors Culminate at Once

Today I will focus on “The Black Moment.”

The black moment is related to the impossible dilemma in that the character believes that the dilemma is truly impossible. All is lost. He cannot achieve the story’s overarching goal. His life’s mission is being cast into a pit of darkness.

This is the moment that the character reaches deep inside and accesses new strengths he has gained or lessons he has learned through the journey to this point. These give him the ability to go on. Earlier, he could not have done this, so his suffering and trials are proven to have a purpose. As he realizes this, he gains even more strength, perhaps perceiving that a higher power is guiding his steps. He can go on. He must go on.

With this newly gained fortitude, he brushes himself off and marches confidently toward the story’s ultimate conflict. He will need that bravado, because the worst is yet to come.

Such moments allow readers to commiserate with the character. Yes, he has suffered greatly and is rightfully near despair. Yet readers also urge him to drag himself out of the pit. “You can do it! Remember what’s at stake!” Then when he does, readers cheer for him all the more.

Do you have any black moments in a story you’re working on. If so, please tell me about one.

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18 replies

  1. My black moment actually comes near the end of my final battle. She has lost friends and family, including her mother, whom she previously believed to be dead, at the hands or order of the man she is fighting. The physical and emotional fatigue weigh her down, and she thinks ‘maybe I was wrong. I wasn’t the one in the prophecy’. It is at that point she manages to rally her remaining strength and emerge victorious! (Even after losing the sword for which she was known)

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  2. My black moment comes near the end of my story too. My two MCs are engaged in the final stages of a battle–one they appear to be losing. They try to summon the courage needed to press on, but despair drags them down. Just when all seems lost, help arrives from a source that the MC’s prepared earlier, in faith, without knowing the purpose of those efforts. Victory is then gained, but it is short-lived. (Sequels are coming, you know. Can’t have it turn out perfectly. ;))

    Rex, sounds like a great climax! 🙂 I like the sound of that story.

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  3. My black moment is after my MC’s best friend sacrifices her life for the MC, and the MC feels like it’s too hard to keep going, and that she can’t do what everyone’s expecting of her, but then she remembers her friend’s last words, which are that she still believes in the MC and will pray for her, and in this, combined with the lives she could save, the MC finds strength to keep going. At least…I think this is a black moment. 🙂

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  4. Sorry, I don’t write stories, but I love reading your writing tips. They have been helpful to when I write my college papers. I now have very few errors in my papers. Most of my errors now are on a theological level 😊

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  5. I remember you teaching about this at FCWC one year. ^ ^ Black moments are probably one of the best moments in a story, because you see how they’ve truly changed. In my black moment for my sci-fi the character admits he now cares about a group of people he grew up to hate, and in my steampunk fantasy the main character finally trusts someone who has been trying to earn her trust throughout the book.

    Stori Tori’s Blog

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  6. A lot of tragic things happen in my stories, so there are probably a lot of black moments. The one that mainly comes to mind right now is in one of my stories where my main char is trying to do all be can to keep humanity alive, but almost everything works against him. Not only is he burdened by his loved ones gradually dying all around him, but he is burdened by past mistakes and sins he is trying to overcome. He is leading humanity and its allies in a fight to survive, but it is so difficult for him to get everyone to cooperate, and atrocity after atrocity happens. He is at first fixated on humanity’s survival and his own victory, and will not at first accept anything else. But at one of his blackest moments when all of this piles up, he begins to accept that he may not gain the victory that he wants, but decides that’s what is most important is that God’s will be done, and that he must trust and love God no matter the outcome. So, after that, he is still very worn but a little more at peace and able to continue fighting.

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    • The blackest of the black moments. Sounds like a dark story. 🙂

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      • In a lot of ways, especially since most of the characters are unable to see how God works everything out for the best. I guess part of my reason for writing a story like that is that often enough I see people turn away from God when he doesn’t work things out exactly as they’d like, even though whatever he decides to do will probably be better than what we can imagine.

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  7. Mr. Davis, for a writing contest I’m planning on entering, they’re asking for a one page synopsis of my book. What would be the most important things to include in a synopsis, and what should I avoid? Thanks.

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  8. I have two main black moments in my big story. One is where the protag thinks the villain will finally get away with his sister and that he will have to give into the villain’s blackmail if he wants his sister back. But if he does give in, then his country and the villain’s will both become the beginnings of the villain’s kingdom and empire, as well as the fact that both kingdom’s current rulers will die and the villain will marry the protag’s romance, the princess. This moment was saved by an original helper of the villain ‘turning good’ and coming to the rescues with his failing strength as the protag was chasing the villain. My next one though, is when the villain has just died, but at the possible expense of that previously mentioned helper of villain. The protag and all think that he’s going to die (still not sure if he does or not), and this would be terrible as he’s just newly redeemed as a helper of the protag not the villain. Please tell me if, as my second and second to last big dark moment, it should end darkly. All my friends are prejudiced and regardless of the story’s quality just want the helper to live. 🙂

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    • Those both sound like good black moments, but how dark the story should be is up to you. Some people like dark, and some people don’t.

      I am wondering why you consider your friends to be prejudiced if they want a happier outcome. Maybe it is merely a preference rather than a prejudice to want an uplifting story.

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