Friday, May 27, 2011

Writing Conclusions - Here comes the cavalry!

This might be my veriest mostest favoritest part of the first draft process. Well, other than writing the beginning. Oh, and typing "the end" is pretty sweet too. But this is definitely in the top 5.

On Wednesday we launched into the conclusion of our first draft, and we talked about the "black moment." The moment when your main character (MC) is brought to their knees. When it seems all hope is lost. Now that they've wallowed there for a bit (and in my experience, only trial and error and a good critique partner can help determine how long the black moment should last) it's time to send in the cavalry.

By which I mean one of your wonderful secondary characters is going to say or do something that shakes your MC out of their funk. They will show your MC why the lie they believe about themselves isn't true. Or they'll provide some sort of tool to help your MC climb out of the metaphorical pit.

And that's when it'll click for your character, and you'll get that wonderfully satisfying epiphany moment. "Aha! I'm not a total failure because I can do such-and-such well!" Or, "Oh, I thought this was true, but it turns out I misunderstood, and it's not true after all."

Just like the black moment is critical to your satisfying conclusion, so is your cavalry/epiphany moment. This is what the reader has come for, to watch your MC change.

Couple of thoughts about packing a punch with your cavalry moment:

Pick an unlikely character
While there's nothing wrong with using one of your more prominent characters for the cavalry moment, examine your other options. Could it be someone on the fringe who provides a rescue? Or maybe someone who doesn't even like your main character very much?

Take the time to convince your main character
It really shouldn't be as simple as one character saying, "That's what you thought? You're wrong. That's not true." And your MC being like, "Oh, okay. Well, I feel much better now." The truth brought in the cavalry moment should take a bit to soak in. Think of it like watering a garden. You don't turn the faucet on full blast, because all that does is erode the soil. Instead you use a gentle spray so the water can slowly soak down to the roots.

Leave your character shaking, at least slightly
While the cavalry should breathe new confidence into your main character, it shouldn't leave them feeling 100% better. That won't come until the final battle, which we're going to talk about on Monday.

Speaking of Monday, don't forget to get your writing prompts in by May 30th!

Anyone have fun plans for the holiday weekend? My husband and I will celebrate 7 years of marriage on Sunday. Then on Monday he and my dad will fix some wood rot on our house. Romantic, right?


  1. This blog is so helpful! I had never before heard of "black moment" "calvary moment". I always knew you were supposed to do bad things to your character, but the way you have written this is an extreme help.

    My plans for the weekend are that tonight, I am going to visit some friends, tomorrow I am helping another small church an hour a half away, and then Monday, my parents are celebrating 19 years of marriage. :D So all of us kids are going to my grandma's house and won't be back until Tuesday. During that time, I hope to swim a lot, and eat lots of dessert. :)

  2. Tabitha, I remember the first time I heard about the black moment and sending in the calvary. Totally changed my writing!

    And grandma's house is the best! Hope you have a great time.

  3. Happy Anniversary! Hope you have a great one
    I don't have a lot of plans this weekend, I'd love to do a ton of writing :) but mostly I hope all the bad storms stop

  4. Happy Anniversary, Stephanie! That's awesome! And I have to tell you, nothing says, "I love you and I will protect you" like 'Honey, I'm going to attack the wood rot for you.'

    My hubby and I have been married 21 1/2 years. But romance isn't always what they put in the movies. Some of my most romantic memories are when hubs does something for me just to please me. Sigh. Thump-thump. Thump-thump. My heart be still.

  5. Happy Anniversary, and I love this post. :) I love writing the last moments, I was shaking in excitement when I wrote the last bits of one of my books. Now the hard parts are writing the middle... lol.

    This weekend I'll be doing the Kinetic Sculpture Race (or the Kinetic Grand Championship)... not very excited about it, I'd rather be writing. But thats what I'm doing. :)

  6. Happy Anniversary, Mr. and Mrs. Morrill!

    Great post, too! :-)

    Jazmine, groan...the middles are the hardest for me, too. I feel like I'm drowning in a plate of spaghetti (only the noodles are all tangled plot lines!). Okay, that is a wierd analogy...but it's the truth!

  7. MAJOR thanks to Erica Vetsch who pointed out that I repeated said "calvary" when I meant "cavalry."