Kat: This is The End My Friends

iStock_000024694204XSmallAs I get my MS ready to send off to the agents/editors I met with at RWA, I referred back to my McD notes on endings. Lots of great stuff there, but one thing in particular caught my attention.  Start with the last scene. Alas, that gem came too late to save me back in my McDaniel days. I was already knee-deep in Cheyenne and thought I knew where this was all headed.

I was wrong, of course, but now I do (no,really) and it’s time to finish this sucker up. My front end is brushed to perfection (no tittering, please), and my middle isn’t so much saggy as missing teeth, AKA the scenes that I’ll need to build up to the dark moment—which is beginning to glimmer.

So the black moment. I know this concept is a vital turning point, the point of no return, the moment when Cheyenne can never go back. It’s also the climax to a bunch of scenes that come before it, all of which should escalate as they build up to the moment.

I’ve always struggled with the black moment, mainly (I think) because I was always looking for the big thing; a figurative fireball rocketing toward the earth or Moses on the Mount. What physically happens in the scene doesn’t have to be big at all, but it does have to have the emotional impact of a fireball crashing into the protagonist’s life.

For example: The actual moment (scene) can be as simple as Cheyenne walking into Hawk’s bar after he sets up a meeting (luring her there), and finding Reed and Hawk with their heads together over a pile of legal documents that will put the land into a trust, ensuring that it cannot be sold. Or said another way, Cheyenne walks into a bar and finds out the man she loves is in cahoots with the man who is determined to stop her from getting what she wants or die trying. Yes, Reed has (at Hawk’s behest) undermined her efforts to sell the land from the beginning. This isn’t the “big misunderstanding” either. Reed admits that he’s been blocking the land sale all along, but is vague as to why (he does remind her that he helped her rehab the house which was a better alternative to selling the land).

So assuming that’s my black moment, how would you feel, as a reader, about Reed deceiving Cheyenne? Would protecting his daughter be a strong enough reason for lying to her? Would blackmail? What would you think if it turns out that Reed went along with Hawk because he believed that preserving the land for future generations was the right thing to do (and he could pay off a debt to Hawk at the same time)? Got a better idea? Any suggestions for why Reed might not tell Cheyenne from the get-go that he’s “working with” Hawk?

Next week specific tips on how to approach the story ending.

13 thoughts on “Kat: This is The End My Friends

  1. I’d have a problem with Reed deceiving Cheyenne from the beginning, Kat, because it would mean that their entire relationship arc and the growth of trust between them was built on lies. Even if he had an amazing reason, even if it’s for his daughter or even for Cheyenne’s own good, he’s chosen to deal dishonestly with her and if he does it once, he’ll do it again. I’ll be interested to see what other people say, but this would be a deal-breaker for me.

    • Ok what if reed ultimately sides with hawk on putting the land into a trust(or something). He truly believes it’s the right thing to do and tells her so but given her trust issues, her inclination is to think they were working together…works or no?

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      • If they have an honest disagreement, I’m absolutely fine with that. If Reed says something like (frex) I’ll help you rehab the house, because I want it to be restored, but give me (or even Hawk) the chance to buy you out, and just so you know, if you try to sell it to a developer I’ll stand against you with everything I’ve got, then I’m fine with it. If they find themselves on opposing sides, that’s perfect, as long as Reed isn’t a cheat and a liar.

        • I appreciate the feedback from you both.

          I like the idea of Reed siding with Hawk (or at least they come out on the same side) on the land situation. I think it works as the dark moment because it plays into Cheyenne’s (Gotta go it alone) character arc. She believes she can’t depend on anyone to stand by her when she hits Dry Creek, but as the romance and house restoration progresses–Cheyenne and Reed shoulder to shoulder, she starts to depend on him in a way that wasn’t possible in the beginning. Then wham! Reed stands with Hawk on the land sale and she sees this as a sort of betrayal which puts the relationship in jeopardy.

  2. Having them disagree is one thing- no couple will see eye-to-eye on everything. Having her ideal of Reed shattered does work for a nadir. I’d be gutted if someone I’d been working with, trusting and hoping for a future suddenly told me that future was not what they wanted.

    But if he’s been hiding it from her, or lying to her, that’s a great big screaming klaxon ABORT! ABORT! ABORT! to the relationship. You can make it more a Big Misunderstanding if Cheyenne only hears what she wants to hear, which makes the blackest moment two-fold: can’t trust others, can’t trust herself.

    If he’s upfront and she listens to what he says, that still leaves you lots of room for conflict because they’ll both want the “best” thing, and that “best” thing will be different. You can have her fall into the “he’ll change his mind” trap (though I think that’s hokey.) You can have her think she’s got the resources and ability to outsmart them both, and then layer on some of the “now he’ll see where I’m coming from” attitude.

    I think you’ve got your work cut out for you on wrapping it up well. I wish you luck and tenacity!

  3. I’m trying to think of a book I liked where the hero lied to the heroine until the dark moment. I’m sure there must have been some where the hero was living under a secret identity, but in that case, revealing the truth made the heroine like him more and took away some of the problematic stuff that was blocking them.

    Sounds kind of like you are going for a double-darkness of the soul — both the plotline where Cheyenne battles Hawk hits bottom (Hawk looks like he’s going to win), and the plotline where Cheyenne and Reed are falling in love hits a major snag.

    Maybe at that moment, Hawk could convince Reed that he’s doing the right thing for River and the community and maybe even Cheyenne (“a woman like that has no business with this property; she’ll just leave” sort of thing?). And maybe Cheyenne makes an offhand comment about “after” (if she’s still thinking or even toying with going back to her old life), and that creates a knock-down, drag-out fight where Reed accuses her of no commitment, and she accuses him of siding with Hawk against her.

    I’m not sure quite when you have her turn from a temporary part of the community into a staying-for-good sort of woman. If she’s already “turned,” then this sort of scenario would make no sense and would be pretty contrived if it’s rehashing stuff that’s already been settled. But, if the deep dark moment makes Cheyenne realize that she DOES want to stay, and it makes Reed realize that he wants Cheyenne to be a part of his life forever, then it does an important job.

    I’m not really a fan of deep, dark moments, but I will accept them and maybe even like them if they serve a major part in bringing about the happy ending.

    • One of Kristan Higgins early books features the heroine lying to the hero until the dark moment when she’s exposed. It’s a little lie (A made up boyfriend) but he leaves her anyway. The resolution? She fixes some stuff in her family life that was the reason for the lie and her family figuratively smacks the hero around until he comes to his senses. I liked that book–a lot, but if the situation had been reversed? Probably not.

      Anyway, excellent food for thought, Michaeline.

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