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?