06 December 2007

The Black Moment

Bernita explores an aspect of writing nearly every day on her blog--well worth reading. Today it is the Black Moment. I realized when I come away from a story unsatisfied, it is often because the author never pushed the protag into the Black Moment. This is the moment when all seems lost, or to bastardize what David told me once in reference to the ending of one of my books:

He needs to lose his sword, crawl through the mud in a violent thunderstorm, everyone dead or dying around him! He has to be covered in blood and devoid of all hope. Light should be cracking through the pearly gates; his ancestors must be waving from the tunnel of white light. He must be so weakened that the antagonist not only holds all the cards (and said sword), but has plenty of time to decide how to play them. And then, still, after all that, the protag must prevail--mostly alone.

Short stories are not immune from this good advice. Some stories are not so physical, but what violence are you wreaking upon your protag's soul? Has he undergone a trial that will change him, and maybe the world around him, forever? Has he sacrificed? Has he fought against all odds for what he believes, or what you want him to believe?

Once you get to know your protag well, the Black Moment is fairly easy to construct. Simply take away what he wants most in life, and make him fight like hell to get it back.


Bernita said...

Thank you for the kind word, Betsy!

David E. Hughes said...

Wow--I said that? Damn, I'm good. But seriously, I think black moments are really important in novels, but I think it is hard to set them up in short stories. I love to see short stories that have them, but most of the time I'm happy to settle for good, strong conflict from beginning 'til (almost) the end. The conflict should be (mostly) resolved at the end.

Anonymous said...

Well, I agree, the black moment should be scaled to fit the story. I didn't phrase that well. But still, most good stories have such a moment.

And yeah, Dave, you're that good. :D

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