Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Black Moment

I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that, for me, there is just ONE ‘black moment’. It refers to a final crisis, the most intense problem/conflict that the characters have to overcome before they can finally be together. The other conflicts, problems, differences (which Ana has reminded me can be called the ‘dark’ moments) can pile one on top on the other throughout the story. Some may be resolved, some not. But ‘the black moment’ is the culmination when the readers (and the characters) maybe start thinking everything might finally be resolved and then wham!  Something happens to throw everything up in the air again. It splits the couple, or pushes them even further apart.

It’s not just the readers who have to think there’s no hope for the hero and heroine to reunite. The characters themselves truly believe they’ve lost each other and involve the reader in the hell they’re going though as a result.

The black moment also has to be believable and connected to the rest of the story. Too simple a ‘crisis’, such as a misunderstanding which could easily be cleared up, can annoy the reader. An unrelated crisis e.g. the heroine is in a car crash and the hero rushes to her side and ‘all is forgiven’ is unsatisfying.  And some amazing 'coincidence' would be out of place too. 

The real (IMO) ‘black moment’ comes near the end of a novel and needs to be something the hero and heroine have to push their way through or past to earn their HEA ending. In doing so, they learn something about themselves which enables them to resolve their differences.

I could give you an example from my soon-to-be-published 'His Leading Lady' but I don't want to spoil the ending for you all! So instead I'll quote the 'black moment' from ‘The American President’:  Sydney Ellen Wade and the President, Andrew Shepherd, have faced various problems, both personal and external, in their developing relationship but the real black moment comes when the President breaks his promise to support the bill for which she’s been lobbying. Sydney feels betrayed and is furious. "I don’t want to lose you over this," Andy says. Sydney turns to him: “Mr. President, you've got bigger problems than losing me. You just lost my vote.”

Wham! How on earth are they ever going to resolve this and get together for their HEA? That, to me, is the black moment.


  1. I don't think I often have black moments but I did in Fortune's Folly. Just when it seems like Andreas and Helena might get together for all time, the catalyst for the ruination of their relationship returns - with a vengeance. Thanks for explaining it so thoroughly, Paula, I now know exactly what you mean.

  2. Great post. It's hard to nail those "black moments" down. I struggled with mine for A Ranger's Tale, but after many edits and some wonderful critique partners, I think it finally works without being too rushed or out of the blue.

    Those are great points to think about and remember, and I'll be sure to keep it in mind for my WIP. :)

  3. Great post, Paula. Yours, too, Mysti!
    To me, romances are emotional stories, and a well set up Black Moment delivers on the implied promise of HEA that Debra commented on yesterday. Throw obstacle after obstable in front of our lead characters. The tension created drives the plot and keeps the reader turning pages. The penultimate suspense created by a solid Black Moment resolves in a wow! love triumph. And readers that come back for more thrilling rides.

  4. Margaret - this is just how I see it, and is usually the way I work, but of course everyone has their own individual way of writing!
    Mysti - thanks - and good to see you here. Glad you found the post useful - and I think you are on the right lines when you say the black moment shouldn't be rushed or out of the blue.
    Ana - without obstacles and tension, the story would become bland and boring, and I especially like building up to the final 'big one'!

  5. One of my favorite movies! Great post and wonderful blog. Thanks for stopping by mine. I look forward to reading more from you.

  6. Thanks for stopping by, Sylvia. So pleased you like our blog!

  7. Hi,

    Fab example, Paula. ;)

    Hi Sylvia, great to see you over here as well.


  8. PERFECT example Paula (and one of my favorite movies to boot!)

  9. It was the first example came to mind when I was trying to think of one. And actually, the whole plot could be a blueprint for romance writers!
    It's one of my favourite movies too. Except that now, when I watch it, I find it so weird with Martin S as Chief of Staff, and not President LOL!