Last month I wrote about the Muddle in the Middle, the hardest section for me to write and maybe for some of you, too. I hope you don’t mind but I’m going to repeat the last part of that blog, Training for Battle. Then I’ll go into the Crisis, Black Moment and Act 3, the last act and the End of the Road for your story.
Part 4: Training for Battle
The hero will suffer through a number of tests such as interpersonal challenges, maybe even physical challenges. He’ll encounter obstacles that are difficult to overcome, physically, emotionally or mentally. Again, he’ll look inside himself and learn to adapt to change and conquer the barriers to his goal which he encounters through out the middle of the story.
Follow these principles: Every obstacle the hero faces must make the journey more difficult, causing him to dig deeper. He’ll find a character trait he didn’t have before. He’ll get better at the new skills he’s learning.
Each time the hero improves his skills, he becomes more of the person he wants to be, and he has a glimmer of hope for the future. So give him a glimpse of something he longs for. Let him kiss the girl. (Now I know where to add a kiss!) Things are looking good for the hero!
When the hero and heroine feel empowered and on their way to victory, you’ll pull the rug out from under them.
Since they’ve grown and matured and developed important skills, they’ll be prepared to face the problems that lay ahead. Very soon they’ll smash right into the Crisis, the worst situation of the story and of course, the most difficult to overcome.
Crisis/All is Lost: It has the whiff of death, of terrible defeat. The hero might want to run away and not face the end of his old way of thinking. He might feel he can’t possibly defeat the obstacle blocking him from the attainment of his goal. He loses hope. But fortunately, this is a false defeat. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know that, yet.
Ask yourself: what event strips the character of hope?
Black Moment: This is the darkest, lowest point because the main character has lost everything. It could be physical or emotional loss or both.
Create the Black Moment Event.
It’s based on the heroine’s greatest fear. The lie she thinks about herself holds her back throughout the story and feels totally real to her. But the Epiphany forces her to learn that what she believes is a lie. Only the truth that sets her free. Now she can break down the barriers preventing her from moving forward. She can attain her goal, and in a romance, the love of the man she cherishes.
What can the heroine do at the end that she couldn’t do at the beginning?
Overcoming her greatest fear enables her to grow into the new, stronger person that the reader wants to see. She’s able to run the race and know she can win.
How do we create the Black Moment?
The Black Moment Event comes from going back into the hero’s backstory to find a Dark Moment in his past that has shaped him. From it we pull out the Greatest Fear and the Lie he believes, but shouldn’t. The Greatest Fear is the EVENT you will recreate in some form, and the LIE is what you will make your character believe is true as inescapable as an EFFECT of the Black Moment.
The result of this is the truth setting your hero free, to escape her flaw, and then a Character Change/Hurrah finale where she does something at the end that she wouldn’t do at the beginning.
Examine her Greatest Fear to find her acute pressure point. Bring back the greatest fear by recreating the pain of a terrible past event that she’s never truly forgotten or overcome. Pain from the event in her past is still with her in the present and reaches into her future. It can be regret, abandonment, anger etc. This new event produces the same emotions, the same conclusion, the same LIE she believes. Slowly push your heroine to confront this fear right from the beginning of the story.
The Black Moment should be strong enough to bring her to her knees and re-evaluate everything she believes in. This will lead her to a healing Epiphany. She must look back and see what she did wrong. Only then will she come to some truth that will open a new door to a new future.
You start the hero on a journey and she has to want something, but be unable to attain it. During the journey, the external plot points affect the internal character journey so that the hero begins to want to change, and even opportunities to change. When she reaches the Black Moment, she realizes her need to change, and her Epiphany causes this to happen. For us to believe she’s changed, she has to be tested. This is the Final Battle.
ACT 3: In Act 3 the protagonists muster the courage to overcome their inner obstacles and remove the emotional armor that has kept them apart throughout the story.
In the Final Battle, she accomplishes what she couldn’t even imagine doing at the beginning. She’s tempted to give up since this is such an enormous obstacle to overcome. But the Epiphany has changed her because she’s learned to vanquish the lie and believe in the truth. She can finally press on to the Triumphant Ending.
You wage a Final Battle to show change has really taken place. It’s not just a mental assertion; it’s now a part of her entire character. You wage this internal struggle by using external elements.
To sum up the ending: The heroine faces the last, but most difficult challenge. What she couldn’t do previously, she can do now. She confronts the lie (or her inner flaws which have kept her from change). She falters, then embraces the truth/epiphany, and she forges ahead in victory.
Here are the steps to follow:
Step One: Storm the Castle. What is the final thing the heroine needs to do to prove she has changed? (Just saying she’s changed for the better isn’t enough.) She’ll have to prove it in a tangible way. It’s an internal transformation which she shows through her actions in the external plot.
Step Two: She’s human after all, so she’ll falter, or be attacked by the Lie. Ask: How can her fears or flaws, her dark moment from her backstory rise up to make her doubt herself? This shows that change is hard, even though she’s experienced a moment of enlightenment called the Epiphany. Letting go of past beliefs which have proven false are still difficult to give up.
Step Three: Grasp the truth and hold on! She’ll be reminded of her epiphany that has recently made her see the truth and this gives her strength to continue on.
Step Four: Carpe diem! Victory! How does she complete her journey by showing she has confronted the lie, and chosen truth. How can she win?
External Relationship Arc: How does fear threaten the potential of the relationship one last time?
Internal Relationship Arc: How do the characters prove they don’t want to continue without the other anymore?
Final Image / Resolution: Show how the characters are now fully themselves, in love, and perfect for each other. Show how much change has occurred. A wedding scene is a great example of how two characters at odds at the beginning finally come together in harmony.
There’s a beautiful sunset at the end of the road.
Happily Ever After: We picture our couple, who have emerged from all kinds of trials and tribulations, as people deserving and capable of living happily ever after. There’s nothing like a satisfying ending that’s truly a new beginning!
This information came from Susan May Warren’s book Conversations with a Writing Coach. I highly recommend it!
I’ll be giving away a $10.00 gift certificate to Starbucks, my favorite place for lattes and caramel frappuccinos. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.
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