A great American humorous writer, Stephen Leacock, was once asked whether writing was a difficult art. ‘Oh no,’ he replied, ‘writing isn’t difficult at all. You just take a pen and paper and put down whatever occurs to you. Of course,’ he added thoughtfully, ‘the occurring—now that can be difficult.’
I’d like to tell you what I’ve learned from books and the Internet about the black moment and what it means to your work. How important the black moment is to romance writing.
Firstly, I think for you to understand the black moment clearer, I’ll give you an example of a black moment that maybe you could relate to. You know, the moment when all is lost. When your goal of becoming a published author seems like reaching the moon, and you’re stuck on earth with a flat booster rocket. That moment when your faith is waning and your energy is fading fast. When the years feel wasted, the sacrifices in vain, and the rejections overpower you like unpaid bills. This is a black moment. The resolution, of course, is an acceptance letter.
What do the words black moment say to you? Even if you’ve never heard of the black moment in writing you can pretty well guess this is an indication of a problem.
The big black moment is that point of hopelessness, the darkest, bleakest reaction section in your novel.
You’ve been working towards this scene from page one, or should have been.
When do things look their worst? When your characters have been backed up to a wall and they’re forced to change or make a decision that could lead them in to not receiving what they want. The black moment should inevitably lead to an internal change allowing them to commit to the other.
FINAL CRISIS AND BLACK MOMENT—the final crisis and its disastrous results. Immediately followed by TURNAROUND AND RESOLUTION—you tell the turnaround element and the story resolution. This is how it works BLACK MOMENT FOLLOWED IMMEDIATELY BY RESOLUTION—the end of the story.
This is the reward stage: what do the hero and heroine get for changing and the sacrifices they’ve made? They get each other. This is the prize.
We need the black moment. It is another way of drawing our readers in and making them care.
As writers, we create our own criteria for this moment from manuscript to manuscript. It can be one page, two paragraphs, whatever it takes to bring the reader to the brink of fulfillment, and then we tell them there is one last almost insurmountable problem.
The hero and heroine have either made a commitment or there is a strongly implied future between them. We are not left wondering if they love each other.
An Affair to Remember, starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, is considered one of the greatest love stories ever. If you have never seen it, rent it out. If you have seen it before, take a stroll down memory lane to relive the magic.
Cary Grant stars as world-renowned playboy Nicky Ferrante. Nicky is engaged to marry Lois Clarke, a rich heiress. He’s boarding for his cruise to cross the Atlantic.
Deborah Kerr plays Terry McKay, the girlfriend of a rich businessman, who is also on the cruise. She is lonely and hates her boyfriend, Kenneth for forcing her to go on the New Year’s Eve trip by herself. Fate brings the two together when she finds Nicky’s cigarette case.
They are instantly attracted to one another, but the couple realizes that they should not be seen together and must not act on their burning passion due to their commitments to their current beaus. However, that only makes the love grow stronger.
As the cruise approaches its destination, New York City, they realize they are meant for each other, so our two lovers make a pact—they will meet at the top of the Empire State Building six months later. If they are still in love, they will get married.
Three months later finds Nicky waiting on the top of the Empire State Building and Terry looking up at the building and her love. Crossing the road, she is hit by a car and left paralyzed. She doesn’t want Nicky tied to a cripple and never contacts him.
Nicky believes that she doesn’t love him.
This is not the black moment.
The black moment comes when Nicky sees Terry at a theatre with another man. Consumed by jealousy he arrives unexpected at Terry’s flat. He wants to tell her how much she has hurt him and how he can never forgive her. He begins to leave her and we realize that all is forever lost.
TURNAROUND AND RESOLUTION: as he’s leaving he sees a painting he’d given away to a friend who owns a restaurant, a painting that both he and Terry loved. His friend told him about a crippled girl who begged him to sell her the painting. He searches the flat and finds her wheelchair. And we have a most satisfying heart-rending ending.
Let’s take another example:
In my latest book, An Outback Affair, out today from Crimson Romance, Cassie believes all that Joel wants is his nephew Sam. She confronts him and he confesses that it is the truth. At the beginning he wanted only Sam and planned and plotted to keep him, now he has fallen in love with her and she is his life. She doesn’t believe him.
TURNAROUND AND RESOLUTION. Joel tells her to leave the station, take Sam with her and never return. He’ll never bother them again. Cassie knows now that Joel loves her more than life itself.
The black moment is full of possibilities to enhance and bring your story to a close.
The reader wants a happy ending.
Create the black moment in a skilful, believable manner, and then let your readers and your hero/heroine have their well-deserved happy ending.