RU Contributor Rayne Hall returns with a primer on writing the crucial black moment.
The ‘Black Moment’ adds drama, excitement and emotional depth to the novel’s middle part. If your draft suffers from a sagging middle, adding or improving a Black Moment can be the solution. Here are professional techniques you can use.
* Place the Black Moment in the middle of your novel or a little later. Two thirds into the book often works well.
* Internal and external conflicts increase to a level where the MC can’t bear it any more.
* Arrange it so everything and everyone has turned against the main character at this stage. Make it as difficult as you possibly can: His girlfriend has broken up with him, his allies have deserted the cause, he has been fired from his job and evicted from his home, the villain’s henchmen are closing in, and his big secret has been exposed in the press. To make matters worse, his daughter has been abducted and will die unless the hero surrenders the proof of the villain’s machinations… and he can neither rescue her nor deliver the documents because he’s locked up in a prison cell. Really pile it on.
* Make it still more difficult by taking away his means of communication – the mobile phone (British) or cellphone (American), the internet connection, the humans who might carry a message.
* Turn the suspense volume up as high as you can. The “ticking clock” technique works well. The hero has only a certain amount of time – perhaps one hour – to escape from the villain’s clutches and rescue his girlfriend, defuse the bomb or save the world. He is aware of the time ticking away. You can emphasise this by actually showing a clock. The hero sees he has thirty minutes left… then fifteen… ten…five…two…one. This builds enormous suspense.
* The Black Moment doesn’t have to be about high action, but can be a situation of quiet desperation. In the romance genre, it may simply be that the heroine has lost her lover and there seems no chance of winning him back.
* All seems lost. Only a tiny shred of hope remains that the hero will achieve her big, important goal.
* The MC feels disappointed, disheartened, betrayed, desperate, helpless.
* If the plot allows, consider adding fear to this cocktail of emotions. He fears not only for himself, but for the safety of his abducted girlfriend, as well as for the people in the building the villain is about to bomb, for the survival of the human race, or whatever is at stake in your story.
* Let the reader feel the hero’s physical responses to the tension: the aching neck, the dry throat, the sweat trickling down his sides.
* During this ‘Black Moment’, the main character may also learn unwelcome truths about herself. In many novels, this is when immense character growth happens.
* At the end of the Black Moment, either as part of the same scene or in a separate scene, something happens that convinces her that she must make one more attempt. She rallies her last ounce of strength and courage, re-commits to the cause, and gets ready to try once more. (This final attempt, in which she risks everything, will be the book’s climax. For tips on writing the climax scene, see this blog post.)
* If you’ve structured your novel with the ‘Hero’s Journey’ plot model (after Joseph Campbell’s theory), the Black Moment equals the so-called ‘Ordeal’ section.
* The Black Moment is a descent into darkness – physical, emotional, mental, psychological or spiritual, or even all of those.
* To increase the metaphorical ‘descent into darkness’, consider locating the scene underground. The effect will be amazing. How about a storage cellar, a castle dungeon, an abandoned mine shaft, a cave?
The more desperate you make the Black Moment, the more exciting the Climax and the more rewarding the End.
Do you remember a Black Moment scene from a favourite novel or movie? Tell us about it.
Have you planned a Black Moment for your current work in progress? Tell where you’ve located it and in what ways you’ve made the main character’s situation really desperate.
Are your frightening scenes scary enough? Learn practical tricks to turn up the suspense. Make your readers’ hearts hammer with suspense, their breaths quicken with excitement, and their skins tingle with goosebumps of delicious fright.
This book contains practical suggestions how to structure a scary scene, increase the suspense, make the climax more terrifying, make the reader feel the character’s fear. It includes techniques for manipulating the readers’ subconscious and creating powerful emotional effects.
Bio: Rayne Hall has published more than fifty books in several languages under several pen names with several publishers in several genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. She is the author of the bestselling Writer’s Craft series (Writing Fight Scenes, Writing Scary Scenes, Writing About Villains, Writing About Magic and more) and editor of the Ten Tales short story anthologies.
She is a trained publishing manager, holds a masters degree in Creative Writing, and has worked in the publishing industry for over thirty years.
Having lived in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal, she has now settled in a small dilapidated town of former Victorian on Sulu Dial 02theTwitterPic Sulu Scary 01 lookstowardsskull Sulu Fight Scenessouth coast of England where she enjoys reading, gardening and long walks along the seashore. She shares her home with a black cat adopted from the cat shelter. Sulu likes to lie on the desk and snuggle into Rayne’s arms when she’s writing.
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