Building Your Characters from the Inside – Part 3: Black Moment

by Susan May Warren

Welcome back! I hope you and your character and still talking to each other, now that you know his deepest fears, greatest dreams, and know how to hurt him! (If you missed part one you can find them at these links: Part 1 and Part 2)

You will want to be caught up, because today, we’re going to talk about how to put all that knowledge together to create THE BLACK MOMENT.

What is The Black Moment?

The Black Moment is that place in the book where everything hits a crisis – both internally and externally. It’s the point of change in a book and can be the most powerful scene if done right.

How do we find that black Moment for your Character?

It’s easy…and Hint #3: Find their hiding place.
Where do you derive your security? Hopefully, for all of us, it’s in the strength of God and trusting in His love for us. But not everyone has that strength of faith, and most of us can admit that when we are broadsided by life, not all of us go running to the Bible or Prayer first. Maybe you call your mother. Or exercise. Or maybe dive into the refrigerator. I tend to gather in my children and batten down the hatches. Maybe you go home, curl up on the sofa with the Lifetime Channel, or take long walks. Maybe some of us run from our problems, others charge in like a bull and try to organize or control our way out of them. For one person I know, every time she broke up with her current boyfriend, she’d call the first boy she ever loved, tracking him down across the country. Yikes!

What is your security? Going back to my book, Happily Ever After, and taking a look at my handyman Hero, Joe, I’d say he has a history of leaving. Hitting the road when the going gets tough. He trusts only himself, and when life hits the skids, he packs up and goes in search of new beginnings, leaving the old dangling like threads. He’s got a lot of loose ends. Defining your character’s security blanket – the one he reaches for before he finds salvation or even that new lesson in life – will help you craft that climactic moment of choice, and bring him to that AHA! moment where everything changes. At some point in the book, Joe will have to confront his tendency to run, and make a choice…will he continue, or will he stay planted. And if he does, it’ll change his identity.

In Dr. Kimball’s case, he’s been on his own so much, his greatest fear is that no one will ever know the truth about this wife – even more than his freedom, he wants her murderer caught. So when (The Big Dog) offers him this opportunity, he’s face with his greatest dream happening, or losing everything by betrayal. If he surrenders, he’s risking his freedom, and facing his greatest fear – going to jail and never solving the crime. If he doesn’t trust, he’s risking his dream.

You have to bring your character to this point of choice, where his competence is at an end, his identity is threatened, his security is calling him, and his purpose is dangled before him at great risk…NOW you have the elements of a story that will stay in the hearts and minds of your readers!

So, go on…ask your character…When the going gets tough…what do you do?

Next week we’ll talk about putting it all together!

If you missed Part 1: Values or Part 2: Conflict just follow these links.

And don’t forget this year, at Novel.Academy, we’re diving deep into the editing process with a series called Extreme Book Makeover! We’ll be looking at everything from the structure and characterization, to scenes, scene tension, storyworld, dialogue, emotions, wordsmithing and even polishing your novel. Get that course, and over 100 more when you join Novel.Academy. Check out our free lessons and see for yourself!

Your Story Matters. Go, Write Something Brilliant!

Susie May


Susan May Warren is owner of Novel Rocket and the founder of Novel.Academy. A Christy and RITA award-winning author of over fifty novels with Tyndale,BarbourSteeple HillSummerside Press and Revell publishers, she’s an eight-time Christy award finalist, a three-time RITA Finalist, and a multi-winner of theInspirational Readers Choice award and the ACFW Carol. A popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation, she’s also the author of the popular writing method, The Story Equation. A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at: Contact her