Monday, November 16, 2009

Dark moment article

Developing the Dark Moment

Not all books need dark moments, but properly used, this point of crisis can intensify the conflict and at the same time, initiate its resolution.

Think of the dark moment as the time when the protagonist reaches rock bottom. All seems lost. This will usually precede the climax (where the major plot problem is resolved), and thus take place near the beginning of the final part of the book. This is when all the torturing you've done has its greatest effect. But, just as Mommy always tells Tot during the spanking, the torture is meant to build character. The protagonist should experience despair, and then through courage come out of it with redoubled determination and greater wisdom.

The 5 Ds of the Dark Moment:
Dilemma-- the situation has disintegrated around the protagonist, and all seems lost.

Desperation-- the protagonist flails about, considering the most extreme escapes from the dilemma.

Despair-- the protagonist surrenders to despair, certain that there is no way out.

Deconstruction-- in the calm that follows despair, the protagonist begins to analyze the situation, deconstructing needs, values, and options.

Decision-- the protagonist decides what can be discarded, and what's most essential to be kept, and determines a course to achieve that.

The climax is the working out of the decision the protagonist made as a result of the brutal deconstruction forced on him by the dark moment.

So the dark moment is something of an acid test, if you don't mind mixed metaphors. As novelist and writing teacher Jenny Crusie puts it, the dark moment can offer a moral dilemma, one that confronts the protagonist with a threat to the internal identity. It's a time to clarify what sort of "self" the protagonist wants to be. Somehow the darkness forces light on what seemed to be impenetrable conflict.


John H said...

Aha! something that I think I am doing right! The 5 D's are a good checklist though and I can see ways of making this worse for my protagonists. Thanks!

Sylvia said...

This is really useful - I can see a flaw specifically now that I've been dancing around for a couple of days. The "Now It's Personal" moment actually didn't entrench her deeper into the conflict so the dilemma isn't strongly enough motivated.


Another subject that would be VERY useful (do you take requests?) is setting. I'm rejigging my entire location at the moment and trying to think about the things you brought up in the exercise - about how the scene setting can increase the conflict within it. More on this and how to use it thematically (in terms of story setting rather than just scenes?) would be really great.

Also, it'll help the Nanowrimoers with word count: focusing on setting when the story stalls is a well-known tactic!

Cathy in AK said...

I'm just going over the dark moment in my ms and am happy to say it looks like I hit the 5 Ds. Whew!

Thanks for the on-going lessons. They've helped a lot : )

Edittorrent said...

Setting. Okay. I'll think about it. I think there's an article on my website about that, but it might not be what you mean.