Big Black Moment

In the world of romance novels, the characters move through the story, drawing closer to the big black moment, which is the point when all is lost. When I set a goal to blog every week, I knew I’d need plenty to talk about to hit that goal, so I decided to pick topics I struggle with because in writing about them, I can work out the issues in my head as I’m typing. The big black moment is one I’ve subconsciously fretted over since I first started writing.

I know what the big black moment is. I’ve read hundreds, if not thousands, of romance novels. It’s that scene where the characters can’t see a way for their relationship to continue and walk out of the scene assuming it’s over. Ideally, this moment should be driven by the hero’s and heroine’s internal GMC (goal, motivation, and conflict) and if you’re really good, it’ll also be made more complicated by the external plot/action/story. I read something once that I thought was a good encapsulation of the big black moment’s core – it’s the hero’s and heroine’s greatest need in conflict with each other.

So that’s perfect. My problem is I always come up with these great GMCs for my characters which have nothing to do with each other. Like the hero wants his father’s approval and the heroine wants to be accepted. Both are perfectly legitimate. But. How do you craft a story where these are in conflict? In so much conflict, these two people, who are probably in love at this stage of the story – whether they realize it or not yet – are willing to give up the other person to achieve their internal goal. Theoretically, all you have to do is write the story so that these things are more important to the character than the other person.

Say for example, the hero’s father is pushing him to take over the family business in another state and the heroine has just found a group of friends with whom she finally feels accepted. Obviously she’s not going to want to leave her friends to move to another state with the hero, so now they’re in conflict. But that’s kind of boring. Don’t you think?

It has to be deeper. Well, I finally realized the secret. The conflict should be about their views on relationships, commitment, and love in general. I talked the other day about the heroine’s “love belief” which is her core belief about romance. If you figure out what the opposite of that is, and craft a hero with that love belief, there’s a big black moment in the making from page one.

Remember this is the internal GMC we’re talking about. The plot/action of the story is other stuff, the external GMC. Will they escape the bad guys? Will the heroine’s cupcake business fail? Will the hero find his lost dog? Whatever.

A lot of romance novels are built like this – the heroine wants to fall in love and have babies but the hero is allergic to commitment. That’s really all I’m talking about. Our job is to make it a little more interesting and compelling than that. WHY does the heroine want babies? Was she abandoned as a child and she wants a family of her own? WHY is the hero allergic to commitment? Maybe he’s in the military and his whole company was wiped out in a roadside bomb, so he’s afraid to care again. (P.S. Now I’m talking about motivation. The “M” part of GMC)

I’m starting a new manuscript in which I pit my h/H’s love beliefs against each other. Then just for fun, I’m slowly breaking down those beliefs throughout the story, and in the big black moment, they both actually believe the other one is right. The fireworks are going to be big. I can’t wait to write it.

How do you plot the big black moment?

6 thoughts on “Big Black Moment

  1. That second to the last paragraph is exactly how I plot that black moment. The why of it is so much more interesting than the action itself. Well motivated characters are riveting, all the way to the end of the book.

    • And that’s why I stumble – I suck at motivation! But you’re right, the “why” of it is the fascinating part and definitely keeps the pages turning. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by.

  2. I’ve never heard this before Kat. Thanks so much for sharing. I analyzed a few past books and see that some of them fit this conflicting core love belief model, even if it was implied and not the stated.

    What do you think about soulmate stuff then? If the characters know they belong together and agree on that, then their GMC or an external has to carry the black moment, since the core love belief model is settled.

    • Thanks for commenting Mima! I’m so happy to share something new with you. 🙂 Your soul mate question is really interesting and something I’ve never thought of. You’re right to a degree that external GMC can then play into it in that case, but maybe it works better in a genre where the romance is not the CORE story, like romantic suspense or paranormal. I’m writing short category and it’s all about the love story there.

      Regardless, I do still think you can incorporate some internal GMC stuff in a soul mates story, like if they have differing views on what “together” means IE one wants kids and one doesn’t or one wants to get married and one is happy without the piece of paper. The key is to maintain tension and keep some unanswered questions about the future.

  3. Umm…I couldn’t tell you how I actually plot the big black moment. I think I just kind of figure it out as I go along. Some help I am! LOL. But I like what you said about the “love belief”. It makes a ton of sense to me, while sometimes the whole GMC breakdown gets a bit fuzzy in my head.

    • Well, you seem to figure it out pretty well, so you must be doing something right! GMC starts to get fuzzy for me too, I think because it changes throughout the story and honestly, I don’t figure out some stuff about the character’s love belief until I’m finished. That’s why I write the first draft so quickly and then spend months in revisions, but I’m at a place where I have to make peace with that process cuz it just is. Maybe I do more figuring out as I go along than I thought…hmm.

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