Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Writing The Black Moment

Welcoming Lexi Post to the blog today. She's got a great piece of advice for those of you struggling with The Black Moment! Here's Lexi...!

I have to chuckle to myself for choosing this topic. As my critique partner will tell you, I dread The Black Moment when writing a book.  Sure, as a reader of romance, I enjoy living through that terrible time when it looks like the hero and heroine may not make it together as a couple. That’s because as a reader, I have complete faith in the author’s ability to bring these characters through to a glorious happily ever after made much better by having gone through the worst of times. Maybe that’s why I love epilogues, because The Black Moment makes them so rewarding.

But as a writer, I dread The Black Moment. Unlike my lovely critique partner who is very good at torturing her hero and heroine (emotionally, that is), by the time I come to that part of the story, I have so fallen in love with my two main characters, and so want them to have a wonderful life together, that it kills me.  Okay, obviously I’m still alive, but it does wipe me out. For me, The Black Moment is many nights of anguish at the computer.

In an effort to handle this significant obstacle, I have developed some tools for tackling this part of my stories. If The Black Moment is a tough spot for you as well, these may help. I’ll use some of my books as examples.

First, since The Black Moment is the most difficult piece for me to write, I make sure before I start writing that I know what it will be about. For plotters, this is a no brainer, but I am 90% pantser. This is one of the key elements of the other 10% that I must know before I begin, so I can write toward that dreaded moment. All my characters’ goals and motivations must direct me to that one point in time. For example, in MASQUE, I knew ahead of time that my hero, Synn, would betray my heroine. I know! That’s how I felt. But having determined that would happen, I then had to figure out how to still make Synn honorable and his betrayal somehow understandable. In the end, his goal was incredibly worthy, to help 73 souls cross over, his motivation solid, and even if the reader didn’t agree with him, Synn’s 150 years of guilt certainly made him sympathetic.

Second, I have learned to have faith that I will figure out how the characters come through the darkness and into the light. That’s right. I don’t always know how I am going to get my two characters through The Black Moment when I start writing. If you can determine how to overcome the dark for the good of the couple ahead of time, you are in a lot better shape. For me, as I’ve written more and more, I have learned to trust myself that I will figure out how they will overcome in a legitimate way. Basically, if we can get them into this emotional mess, we can figure out how to get them out. In PASSION OF SLEEPY HOLLOW, the hero looks just like Katrina’s past fiancé, so when she calls him by her late fiancé’s name, he has had it. I knew that would happen when I started the book, but had no idea how the two would come back together. In this case, Katrina had to let her past go. Of course, that’s easier said than done when she still lives in the 1790s and the hero lives in present day :-}

Third, I find that it is important to determine if the cause of The Black Moment is going to be an outside force, an inside force, or a combination of both. What I mean by an outside source is something like the villain forcibly marrying the heroine, or the hero is shot, bleeding and no one can find him, or the evil witch changes the lady into a hawk. These can cause some significant angst on the part of the main characters. On the other hand, I consider an inside source one that comes from the characters themselves, be it his honor refusing to forgive her, her loyalty to her family trumping their love, or his duty to the Grand Wizard making him give her up. I think this inner force is truly gut wrenching for the reader.  A real roller coaster of emotion can occur when both outside and inside forces come together at that pitch black moment in the story . In PASSION’S POISON, the outside source of conflict is Bea’s condition. When she has sex with a man, she releases poisons that make him sick but if she doesn’t release her poisons, she will die. If she has too much sex with one man, she will kill him. The outside source in this black moment is critical because when she almost kills the hero, she discovers she loves him too much to go back to one-night-stands (here the inner source comes into play). Not a good position for her to be in.

Fourth, whichever source for The Black Moment is chosen, it is important that the moment and its consequential outcome be significantly emotional. If the fact that the heroine is now a hawk has the hero simply becoming determined to find a way to break the curse, it is not enough. He must feel to the depths of his soul the loss of the woman he loves.  He must be willing to do whatever it takes, including losing his honor, to restore her. He must be devastated by the turn of events. He must do and say things he has never done before nor ever thought he would do, but will now because of his lady love. In CRUISE INTO EDEN, an erotic ménage, The Black Moment is partially internal and partially external. This occurs when the heroine discovers Nase and Ware are responsible for her celibacy for the last 11 years. This discovery after she has fallen for them is devastating for her. However, it is also devastating for them and they turn on each other. In the end, they approach the situation in the complete opposite way than they do anything else in life as they will do anything to get her back.

Fifth, and last, thankfully, (even writing about The Black Moment is exhausting for me), is the timeframe. I find this to be extremely tricky. How long to leave the two estranged lovers in anguish?  If the situation is rectified too soon, then it doesn’t appear to have been truly black and more of just a grey moment. Leave the two separated and hurt for too long, and the reader loses patience.  In my most recent release, COWBOYS NEVER FOLD, Wade is faced with the woman he loves planning to go nude at her nudist resort. For him, this is a core, though unexamined value and it is so deeply rooted in his upbringing that he can’t reconcile her action. This means he can’t just have a change of heart. Something must convince him or her, if they are to have a happily ever after. Oh yes, and then the villain must intervene as well. Can’t have the happily ever after come too easily, now can we? So it takes a number of scenes and outside influences to get Wade to come around. Inside sources for The Black Moment tend to take longer to resolve than outside sources to make a truly satisfying happily ever after.

And that is the reward, is it not? The happily ever after? The blacker the moment, the brighter the finale. The more trials and tribulations our characters go through to find and hold on to love, the more rewarding for our readers. Wow, after all this talk of The Black Moment, I think I need to read one of my epilogues again. Did I mention I love epilogues?

Author Bio:
Lexi Post is an award-winning author of erotic romance. She spent years in higher education taking and teaching courses about the classical literature she loved. From Edgar Allan Poe's short story “The Masque of the Red Death” to the 20th century American epic The Grapes of Wrath, from War and Peace to the Bhagavad Gita, she's read, studied, and taught wonderful classics.

But Lexi's first love is romance novels. In an effort to marry her two first loves, she started writing erotic romance inspired by the classics and found she loved it. Lexi believes there is no end to the romantic inspiration she can find in great literature for her sexy love stories. Her books are known as "erotic romance with a whole lot of story." In 2014 she won both the Aspen Gold Readers Choice Award and the Passionate Plume Award.

Lexi is living her own happily ever after with her husband and her cat in Florida. She makes her own ice cream every weekend, loves bright colors, and you will never see her without a hat (unless she is going incognito).

Website        Lexi Post Updates      Facebook    Twitter    Amazon Author Page   Blog  Email

 Whew! Methinks I need to revisit some of my epilogues as well! Play safe, everyone!

1 comment:

Flossie Benton Rogers said...

Excellent information. You have a clear way of describing the factors involved. Yes, the internal is so gut wrenching for the reader, and writer too. It hurts, man! Thanks for pointing out about timing-- very tricky. http://flossiebentonrogers.com