Story’s Black Moment: Make Sure It’s Black for a Red-Hot Reason

image by PublicDomainPictures
image by PublicDomainPictures

Writers hear much about the need for conflict and disasters in every scene and a black moment near the story’s two-thirds point. We don’t throw these essentials into the mix, but intentionally construct them.

image by geralt
image by geralt

Conflicts and disasters work to enhance the plot or develop characterization. The black moment forces the character to realize what the character truly yearns for, and the event calls for a life change.

 

 

Before the Black Moment

Besides a character’s outward and inward goals, the character longs for something missing in her life. Her longing is something she doesn’t realize—or doesn’t grasp how important it is to her. Usually, past experiences have caused the yearning.

image by PublicDomainPictures
image by PublicDomainPictures

Examples:

  • Amy yearns for the peace of being able to trust, or trust again.
  • Conroy longs to never have to worry about being sent away again.
  • Jenna yens to be good enough.

Since these longings are part of the character’s makeup, the reader will see hints of these yearnings throughout the story. No character or narrator will tell or explain the yearning. The hints will be shown through the character’s thoughts and actions.

During the Black Moment

The black moment is a painful event of some type that causes the character to realize his yearning and that it’s what he’s wanted all along. More than his physical goals.

image by johnhain
image by johnhain

Examples:

  • Amy’s boyfriend leaves. Sobbing, Amy realizes her mistrust has driven away her soulmate. She asks herself, would she want to marry someone who never trusted her?
  • Conroy is fired from his job for which he worked hard to please his bosses. He realizes bending backward doesn’t guarantee peace and security. His timidity may have even caused his termination.
  • The boat capsizes, and fishing line entangles Jenna’s husband. She realizes looking for help from nearby boats isn’t an option. This time, she has to be good enough or become a widow.

After the Black Moment

The realization moment must drive the character to make a decision to change, or ignore her revelation. And the decision should be more than internal reflection. She must show the change or status quo through her actions.

Examples:

  • Amy decides that trusting the hero is the only thing that will save their relationship. She goes to his apartment, where he talks with his lovely neighbor. When he sees Amy, he looks nervous. Amy’s smile is genuine, and she calmly enters into their conversation.
  • Conway decides he’s through “playing it safe” out of fear that people will reject him. He asks his girlfriend of six years to marry him.
  • image by Evaul
    image by Evaul
    Jenna decides to do the impossible and try to save her husband. She quickly ties the boat rope to her waist, dives under the water, releases his knife from its sheath, and frees his arms and legs.

 

 

A story’s black moment makes heroes realize their yearning and calls for a change. Click to tweet.

What does your story’s black moment reveal and call your character to decide?

Point of View: Deepen Your Scene as You Employ It

image by geralt
image by geralt

Through two examples, I’ll show how employing point of view can enrich a scene as readers experience the setting, characterization, plot, and story theme.

I’ll use the same elements for each example.

   Character: Clara Hill, a twenty-three-year-old woman.

   Theme: A first-time teacher learns to reach and help her students.

   Setting: Classroom.

   Scene Plot: How Clara handles her first day of class.

Example 1 

Principal Edwards introduced Clara to the class then headed for the door.

He was leaving her so soon—with the black boy wearing unlaced combat boots and sitting in the last row, tying knots in the blind cord? And with the white pregnant girl, sitting in front chewing gum? Or was that tobacco?

Clara scurried to the teacher’s desk, putting the bulwark between her and the class. Seven columns and six rows of one-armed student desks. And all of them filled with lounging teens. Eighty-four eyes bearing down on her, sizing her up, following her every movement.

image by PublicDomainPictures
image by PublicDomainPictures

She grasped the English textbook with both hands. Anything to steady her trembling fingers. As she opened the book, her number-two pencil fell from its pages, rolled off the desk to the filthy terrazzo floor, and stopped at the mud-encrusted wader of the boy with one lazy eye.

She glanced at the boy. Wasn’t he going to pick it up?

“You dropped your pencil,” he said, one eye on her and the other on the pencil.

What happened to raising one’s hand to speak? And since when was a teacher expected to handle a class of forty-two miscreants? [Scene continues.]

Example 2

Principal Edwards introduced Clara to the class then headed for the door.

Clara ran her gaze over the students as she waited until the metal door clicked shut. A motley bunch, but they’d do.

image by tdfugere
image by tdfugere

She strode to the wooden desk, plopped her rump onto the spot where a lovelorn teen had engraved, ‘LILY LUVS AL,’ and crossed her legs.

“My name is Clara Hill. Ms. Hill to you.” She nodded at the teen in the back. “You who can’t decide whether to open or shut the blinds, what’s your name?”

Sniggers rippled through the students.

The boy released the blind cord. “Emmett Crowe.”

“Thanks, Emmett.” Clara’s clog nearly touched the knee of the rosy-cheeked young lady on the first row. She smiled at the girl. “What’s your name?”

“Annabel Grubbs.”

“How far along are you, Annabel?” Maybe Clara should have taken a birthing class instead of CPR.

More sniggers.

Annabel giggled, displaying brown teeth. “Thirty-four weeks.”

“My guess is you’ll miss the first unit test.” [Scene continues.]

 

Through point of view:

  1.  Clara is fearful and judgmental

OR

    is bold and direct.

2.   Clara sees 42 occupied chairs, skin color, filth, and miscreants

OR

     sees individual students, fidgeting, pregnant, and infatuated with “AL.”

3.   The way Clara handles her first day drives what needs to happen to satisfy the novel’s theme that Clara will reach and help her students (plot).

Perhaps, Clara changes her outlook and relationships with her students

OR

fights the community for the students’ good.

Put point of view to work for characterization, setting, theme, and plot. Click to tweet.

How have you put point of view to work in a scene?

What to Put Into Your Story So a Great Pitch Comes Out

image by geralt
image by geralt

I read articles on high concept. The definitions varied widely, but I was more intrigued with the elements that create what are called high concept stories. These elements can help with what I funnel into my stories—the bling. A great pitch naturally comes out.

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images
Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images

First, what is high concept, which many publishers demand? Popular definitions mentioned:

  • It’s a term used to pitch anything, but mainly movies.
  • It’s the story’s premise or essence.
  • It’s a device to quickly communicate an idea.
  • It’s an attention-getting tagline or logline that evidences the story’s originality.
  • It’s five or less sentences describing the plot in an enticing way.

The most popular pitch elements that make a high concept story:

  1. Entertaining. High concept stories that are:
  • comedies make pitch listeners smile.
  • action stories make listeners imagine action scenes.
  • thrillers affect listeners like Houdini did.
  • any genre make listeners curious about the fun, the tension, or romance.

In my case, I want to tantalize my readers with humor and goose-bump romance.

 

image by Fotomek
image by Fotomek

2.  Emerge from a what-if question.

  • “High-concept stories often begin with a “what if” scenario, and then the hook becomes clear. What’s the hook, you ask? That part of the concept that grabs the reader by the scruff of the collar and doesn’t let go.” (Jeff Lyons’s article, “Write Better: The 7 Qualities of High-Concept Stories”)

I want to brainstorm what-if scenarios until one truly stands out and will be fun to write.

 

  1. Originality. High concept stories offer

I want to brainstorm twists in my opposites attract (or distract) idea that will be a welcome slap in an acquisition editors face.

  1. Incites emotions and senses.
  • Listeners will react with intense emotion.
  • Listeners, emotionally charged, will remember the idea.

I want to entwine details, color, and emotional events that will make my story memorable to editors.

  1. image by Unsplash
    image by Unsplash
    Garners mass audience appeal.
  • “Mass appeal means that nine out of ten people who you pitch your story to would say that they’d pay ten dollars to see your movie first run based solely on your pitch.” (Steve Kaire’s article, “High Concept Defined Once and For All”)
  • Mass appeal suggests the stories would appeal to readers outside the book’s genre.

I want to present acquisition editors, women, and some men with a hard-to-resist tagline that the story genuinely backs.

Use the idea of high concept to add bling to your story and your pitch. Click to tweet.

Which element could you work on to add bling to your story?