Writing Tip 16. Making the Darkest Hour Darker.

In a 3-act story, the darkest hour occurs at about the 2/3 point. It’s preceded by a moment of beauty and reflection that sets up the darkest hour. This moment of peace reminds us of exactly what’s at stake in the struggle.

Think of The Fellowship, and the pause in the action inside the darkest, most dangerous Mines of Moria.

The beauty and goodness of the exchange between Frodo and Gandalf emphasizes the disaster that follows not long afterwards. As well, Tolkien reminds us what Frodo, the reluctant everyman pitted against uber-evil, is struggling for: to save the Shire. The darkest hour that follows, is direr because the conversation, though static, makes us love the characters more. In other words, it’s not the action that grips us, it’s how we feel about the characters involved in the action, that matters.

Taking 3 steps to help create a gripping darkest hour.

  1. As creator of the story, you’ve identified your protagonist’s darkest hour in Act 1 by examining the character’s inner and outer struggle. What’s the worst that can happen?
  2. Set up the darkest hour in Act 2 with a moment of beauty and reflection that reminds us just exactly what is at stake.
  3. Make sure that the worst happens because of a choice the protagonist makes, and that choice must be one he or she would never make, nor even conceive of making at the beginning of the story.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career. Cheers Mel.

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Senior Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume, here.  Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.




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