The What and Why of Writing: Black Moment

I’m going to be honest and admit that, at first, I didn’t understand the power of a novel’s Black Moment. The Black Moment merely meant something bad happened to my main characters. Nothing more, nothing less.

But when I understood the depth of the Black Moment – what it was and how to use it in a story – wow! my novels changed.

What: Black Moment

In one word: devastation. That moment where there is no turning back and no hope, when your character’s worst fears come true. The Lie feels true and things can’t get any worse. The Black Moment breaks your character’s heart — and the moment of truth they experience later heals their heart.


As writers, we’re told to wreak havoc on our characters. When you write your hero’s or heroine’s Black Moment, you let the worst possible thing happen to them.  Think Luke Skywalker’s “I am you father” moment with Darth Vader. This is where their emotional wound is gaping and the Lie they believe about themselves brings them to their knees.

When you hear the term “Wound,” think romance. When you hear the term “Lie,” think faith. The hero or the heroine heals the Wound and God heals the Lie. The Wound prevents a character from developing a lasting relationship with someone else. The Lie they believe interferes with their relationship with God.

Remember: The Black Moment is a recreation of your character’s Dark Moment — that painful experience in their past that shapes who they are today and affects their relationship with others and with God. When you write the Black Moment it does not have to be the exact same thing happening to your hero or your heroine. If someone they loved drowned in the Dark Moment, you don’t have to have someone they love drowning in the Black Moment.  Rather, your character experiences the same feeling of loss, or abandonment or failure.

Example: What if my heroine felt responsible for the death of her younger sister? This all goes back to her Dark Moment: When she was 12 years old, she and her family were at Destin, FL and she was supposed to watch her 6-year-old sister. They were playing in the waves, got caught in a riptide, and the lifeguard saved our heroine, but not her sister.

When I develop the heroine’s Black Moment in the novel, I need to devise an event where she is responsible for someone else – and somehow doesn’t protect them. Could it be water-related, i.e. back at the ocean? Sure. But it doesn’t have to be. I just need to recreate the emotion that she fails to protect someone she loves. I need to tap into her Wound (the loss of a loved one that affects her present-day relationships) and the Lie (she failed someone she loved, so how could God love her?)

How have you recreated the Dark Moment within your character’s Black Moment, making that event all the more powerful for your reader?


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The What and Why of Writing: Stakes

Why should anyone care about the story you’re writing? Before you launch into an explanation of how your stoic hero is also tenderhearted and how your heroine helps heal his wounded heart, step back for a moment. Yes, compelling characters are vital to a good novel, but you also need to consider the big picture and ask the question: What’s at stake?

What: There are three different types of stakes: public, private and personal.

  • Public stakes are what we care about as a culture: an alien invasion of our planet (Independence Day) or some sort of global attack on humanity. The movie Sahara has public stakes because an unknown toxin threatens the world’s entire water supply.
  • Personal stakes hurt the heart of your main character. Think about it: How often in a movie does a global threat laser in on someone the hero cares about? Superman’s love interest, Lois Lane, was always being threatened. Ditto for Batman, Iron Man, Thor … pick a superhero. In my novel Catch a Falling Star, my heroine is a family physician. I threatened her patients — specifically some of the children she cared for.
  • Private stakes involve a character’s values. As your story progresses, force a character to choose between two competing values, creating inner dissonance or turmoil. My Book Therapy founder Susan May Warren does this beautifully in her book You Don’t Know Me. The heroine has been in the Witness Protection Program for years — but now the bad guy knows where she is. Her safety — and that of her family — is threatened. Her value of protecting her family (by leaving them) competes with her love for her family (and wanting to stay with them).

Why: Why do you need to weave stakes into your story? Let me repeat the question I asked at the beginning of this blog post: Why should anyone care about the story you’re writing? Stakes are based on the things we care about — globally and intrinsically. If we write about fears that everyone struggle with, if we write stories about values — and being forced to choose between two legitimate values — then our readers will connect with our imaginary characters in a very real way. Adding stakes also increases tension in your book, which keeps readers turning pages. Think about your work-in-progress: Have you included stakes in your story? Ask yourself these questions to help you figure out what kind of stakes you might include:

  •  Public stakes (affecting home and community): What do I fear?
  • Personal stake: What would I die for?
  • Private stakes: What two equally important values can I pit against each other?

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Colorado Casual Pro PhotoMTB Skills Coach Beth K. Vogt believes God’s best is often behind the doors marked “Never.” After being a nonfiction writer and editor who said she’d never write fiction, Beth’s second inspirational contemporary romance, Catch a Falling Star, released May 2013.