We’ve been talking the past two weeks about the Black Moment, and the importance of it in our hero’s and heroine’s journey. Just to reiterate, without the Black Moment, there is no point to the journey of our character, no moment of change. It’s in the Black Moment that they discover why they’ve gone on this journey. If you’ve added in a romantic thread, it’s when they lose the one they love, and realize they can’t live without them. It’s also when they learn they must change in order to get what they want. (or accomplish the goal they’ve set out to at the beginning of the story).
Now that our hero has confronted his Black Moment and seen the light, then we’re NEARLY ready to finish our story. But, we have to know that he’s changed, that the Black Moment and the Epiphany have worked and that our character has truly learned his lesson and changed.
How do we show this? There are a number of key elements you want to weave into the last section of the book – let’s say the last two – three chapters that will help you prove this.
First, we want to see that your hero/heroine is truly a NEW MAN. (By the way, I explain character change in depth in my advanced writing book, Deep and Wide, available through the MBT Store.) It’s the confirmation and presentation of the changed person he/she has become, complete with new skills, new beliefs, and new courage.
This New Man moment happens right before the finale of the story. We want to glimpse what our new man looks like.
A great example is in Independence Day – remember the black moment in the Mother Ship of the aliens, where our heroes can’t disengage and fly away after uploading the virus? They realize that they have to sacrifice their lives, and that it’s worth it. (Something that the scientist (Jeff Goldblum) wasn’t ready to do at the beginning of the movie). Only THEN are they willing to shoot off the rocket, and then race for their lives out of the ship (against all odds). But first, we see the new men….they sit down in the ship and smoke a cigar together. This is their new man moment. It’s brief, but it shows us who we are rooting for.
THEN….you are ready for the finale. The TEST of the new man through the Final Battle.
The Final Battle is the section where they we test their change. It’s the cementing that yes, the truth is RIGHT and with it they can win the day.
The Final Battle (and it’s not a real battle, just a metaphor for the concepts, just so we’re clear) has five parts: Storming the Castle, lie, loss, reminder, victory
Step One: Storming the Castle
I like to use the Patriot because it is an actual battle, but like I said, that is the metaphor for the ending section of a story. See, armed with the Truth, your character will face their last challenge. In that last challenge, they’ll come face to face with the lie, falter, and then forge ahead in victory. So, your character must Storm the Castle. You need to give your hero/heroine something they must do. A proactive event that will challenge their truth. Maybe it’s a confrontation, or a declaration or a surrender, or a challenge…whatever it might be. It has to be something that will test their mettle.
In the Patriot, Martin’s militia is asked to fight on the line. It’s not something the militia does (and admittedly, it’s a bit crazy. Stand there and let the enemy shoot at you?) But, this is their task, and Martin convinces them.
In my book Nothing But Trouble, (the first PJ Sugar book), her black moment is when she is arrested at the end for something she didn’t do. She wants to run. But, she has learned that maybe God made her with a curious bone and all her crazy skills are a good thing. So, I have her go to get her nephew from where he is staying and, when she sees the potential mystery solving clue, instead of giving up, she takes a chance, digs deep into her toolkit of skills and saves the day. It’s short, but it confirms that she’s a different person.
I often figure out how they will Storm the Castle by asking: What can’t they do at the beginning of the book that they can at the end? For PJ, it’s keep her commitments. For Benjamin Martin, it’s fight honorably.
Now that we have the Battle overview, and their Storm the Castle action, now we have to add some conflict. Because only in conflict do we test/reveal the mettle of a man (or woman!)
The next thing we must do to test our character in the Final Battle is resurrect the Lie.
Step 2: Resurrection of the LIE.
Your hero has to believe that he will lose the battle. This is where the lie raises its almost dead head. We see it again…and is it going to win or is our man truly a new man, armed with the truth, willing to escape/defeat the lie?
In The Patriot, as the battle ensues the line begins to falter and the militia begins to retreat. Martin’s lie is that wars cannot be fought with honor, and clearly, when the militia begin to retreat, this is proven true. Again, it’s fast, just a moment, but the lie has started to rise again, and it just might be confirmed.
PJ Sugar fails in her attempt to subdue the villain, and finds herself in trouble. She’s NOT amazing, she’s just a mess. (That’s the Lie).
Right on the heels of the resurrection of the Lie is a glimpse of what they might lose.
Step 3: Glimpse of the Loss
With the rising of the LIE, there is also the Loss of the goal. The realization that the victory could pass out of their reach.
For example, as the line falters, Martin, meanwhile, has in his sights Tavington – the man who killed both his sons. He is running forward to kill him when he realizes that his men are fleeing. So, he has to make a choice – does he go after Tavington or help his men stay in the fight?
If he goes after Tavington, the lie is true, he’s only ruthless and thirsty for revenge and there is no honor in war. If he doesn’t, he loses his chance to fight. This is his LOSS.
For PJ, if she’s killed, the villain will also hurt her nephew, who she’s sworn to protect. She’ll lose her sister’s love and her mother’s confidence. She really will be Nothing but Trouble.
Give us a glimpse of the loss…and then follow it quickly with a reminder of the Truth.
Step 4: Reminder of the Truth. At the pivotal moment, the hero/heroine has to remember the Truth and what they’ve learned. Just like all of us right before we do something we know is wrong, and we hear the voice of Truth that stops us – the Truth stops our hero.
In the Patriot, in a very metaphorical moment, Benjamin Martin sees the flag on the ground. Remember the flag represents honor, and it was used in the Truth/Epiphany moment early (see last week’s blogs) And, because of that reminder, our hero chooses truth, throws down his weapon and grabs the flag. Then he turns and calls his men back to action – choosing honor over revenge.
For PJ Sugar, although she’s failed at her first attempt knows that she knows the truth about the mystery and blurts out the plot to the killer. He accuses her of babbling and pounces on her…but it acts as a diversion so the good guys can burst in. She’s saved the day with her crazy, everyday skills.
This Reminder of the Truth is the key to cementing that character change, and leads us to Victory.
Step 5: The Victory!
Then, of course we must have that Happily Ever After that gives the Hero and Heroine what they want. In the Patriot, with the troops rallied, Benjamin Martin is free to fight Tavington, having defeated the lie and realizing he can choose honor over the bloodthirsty man he’d been.
PJ Sugar, having saved the day with her crazy skills, doesn’t have to run from her past anymore. She a heroine in her town.
Mapping out the inner journey can be as extensive or as minimal as you want. I like to define the Steps that I’ve just outlined and let the story and characterization take it from there.
One of the tricks that really helps me is to post the lie and the truth on my computer as I write so I know where I’m going. Maybe you want to plot each point, and write out a long theological statement for every leg of the journey. That’s fine too — whatever helps you stay on track and ends with your hero at his destination: The Truth that sets him free.
So, be a Book Therapist and look at your own stories. Do you have a Final Battle? Here are the questions to ask:
What is the Battle?
How will your character Storm the Castle?
(Remember, in victory they get that thing they’ve always wanted)
And, if you need help with the Final Battle, head over to the Voices forum – we’re discussing Black Moments and Final Battles!
See you next week when we start discussing Hints and Secrets of writing Suspense, that I call…The GLOW.