For those who read and love the Romance genre—though contrary to popular belief that they are formulaic, which they’re not—there is an expected sequence of events in each book. This sequence can be compared to similar expectations for readers of the murder mystery genre. There, by the end of the book, the murder must be solved. In Romance, the couple must fall in love and commit to each other. How each genre achieves that ending is as creative as the author who pens it. The story structure for Romance is like other fiction literature, with the addition of a few genre-specific traits.
General Five-Stage story structure for fiction:
- The character has a problem
- Complications make the problem worse
- Conflict, complications, and crises result in a climax
- Problems get resolved
- The characters learn something about themselves and/or life
In Romance, step #3 is termed the Black Moment – when all seems lost between the hero and heroine. Done right, the author makes the reader believe there is no way this couple will ever be together again. All is lost.
Often in Romance, the writer has not set up strong enough conflict to ensure a dramatic, all or nothing, black moment. Editors sometimes complain about the hero and heroine “skipping through the tulips” instead of emotionally battling each other. Notice I said emotionally battling, not bickering. Big difference.
Conflict is the key. The most engaging books take the reader on a rollercoaster ride through emotion and drama, forcing their characters to walk through hell before finding and accepting the gift of happily-ever-after. Without solid conflict for both of the characters (hero and heroine) this cannot be achieved.
What Makes a Good Black Moment?
One ingredient cannot be overlooked when creating the characters for a romance. There must be a relationship barrier. The RB is what keeps the character from moving closer to their love interest. It isn’t something external that prevents the couple from physically getting together. No, the RB is internal and should keep this particular character from engaging in a love relationship with ANY other person. For the purposes of our Romance books, the RB prevents our hunky hero or spunky heroine from crossing over the border of physical lust into true love.
No Wimpy Characters
We don’t write about wimpy characters in Romance. We like to read about people willing to overcome their shortcomings in order to attain the love of their life. When our characters are hit with the black moment – that moment when their worst fears are fully recognized – they do something many people forget to do these days—they GROW. They may not do that immediately in the book—the author may torture the reader with the possibility of the whole relationship falling through—but we sense that change is coming. It keeps us turning the pages.
The Goal of the Black Moment
…is to magnify the relationship barrier along with the character’s major personality flaw when the plot forces the character to face their worst fear…to either change or lose out.
Yes, the characters have an epiphany and realize they must change or give up, or let go of that long-held baggage that has been holding them back in life. The hero is the catalyst that gives the heroine the courage to let go and try for a better future, and vice versa. Each wants to change in order to experience true love.
The HEA – Ah
When everything falls into place in a Romance book, the reader closes the cover with a sigh and a solid sense of “all is right with the world.” The characters we’ve invested in for however many pages, are giving themselves permission to crawl out of the chains of the black moment and FINALLY fall in love.
I am on vacation, and this blog was originally written by me for the Rachael Johns blog on April 19th. I hope you enjoyed this re-run from my blog tour.
Until next week, make it a great one!