D for Dark Moment – Romance Writing from A to Z
No matter if you’re a plotter, a pantser or a whatever-the-hell-I-want-to-write-liker, there’s one moment in your protagonist’s journey that resonates with your readers most out of any other. This moment is often called the Dark Moment, or the All is Lost Moment, and I’ve heard it called The Darkest Night of the Soul. They’re all pretty similar, but what they have in common is that it’s the lowest of the lowest points for your character.
This moment usually occurs just before the climax of the novel, when your protagonist has had that many rocks thrown at her she’s ready to pack it in and give up. And I mean ROCKS in capital letters. She’s been through the emotional, and or physical ringer. She’s been battered left right and centre. She’s had more clichés for devastation thrown at her than you can throw a rock at. And she’s been peeled raw and stripped bare.
The reader thinks, ‘there’s no way she’s going to get through this’. But she does.
Something reminds her of her initial desire and she rallies herself and pushes through.
This final journey makes it all that much sweeter once she triumphs at the end and finds love. And this moment is all the more sweeter when it’s the character’s personal extra push that get’s her through. If an external force helps, it’s not so satisfying.
How do you write a dark moment in a Romance?
It’s much the same as any genre really. There has to be a physical or emotional conflict the protagonist needs to overcome. The dark moment is a culmination of these conflicts. So you can’t just throw in some new conflict that the reader hasn’t heard of before. There needs to be fair warning.
An ex-boyfriend comes to town and reveals horrible secrets about the main character in the hopes that he’ll make no one else want her so she’ll come running back to him. She retreats into herself and reverts to old ways – the shy, insecure girl she was at the start of the novel.
The protagonist has to lose all hope in herself, lose all hope in others and be ready to give up.This scenario would only work if you’ve spoken about said douche bag intermittently during the novel. There has to be a fair reason why she’s actually worried that he may be right. What if she really isn’t worth a penny for anyone else? If you just drop in a line about an ex here or there, you won’t get the emotional punch you’re hoping for at the end. Show (not tell) how she can’t wear tight clothing because he told her she looked fat in them. Or she can’t speak her mind, because he told her she was always wrong. Or maybe she can’t eat a burger without using a fork and knife because he said using hands was uncouth? So you see, there a ways of making jerkface’s influence known without actually having him present.
The moment where she brings herself out of this slump has to be self empowering. You can’t have some dashing prince come along and rescue her, because then she’s no better off than she was at the start. She’s still needing the help of someone else to drag her out of the slump. She needs to see or do something that reminds her of her goals. So, in this example, she might see her niece getting treated the same way she was, and suddenly, seeing it all out there in black and white happening to someone else makes her realise how she really looks. She doesn’t want to be the one that everyone is looking at with pity. She wants to be a strong role model for her niece.
And then, just like that, she climbs out of her hole and into the light.
Here is the plot breakdown:
- REVERSE POINT — Also known as the dark moment. Something happens that makes them realise their original fear and they take a step backwards and they lose love.
- Something happens that makes them realise they want the love, even if it means changing.
- Protagonist makes a personal sacrifice for love.
- CLIMAX —Now actively fighting to win love back—something tries to keep them apart but this time they win.
Need help fitting this moment into your romance? You can download my romance plotting worksheet once you’ve signed up to my email list or get it at my Etsy store for 99c.