As 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.