The other major thing I learned from Angela Hunt was that every plot has to work up to what she called a “bleakest moment.” If you think about the novels you’ve read, I imagine you’ve noticed that events in the story always seem to get worse and worse until something really terrible happens. Well, that is known as the black point, or in Angie’s words, the bleakest moment.
Following this worst-of-the-worst happening in her plot skeleton was the character’s need for help, either from inside or outside herself. It was satisfying to discover I already had that. Then it needed an “epiphany” where the character comes to realize something that will help solve the problem. And that too I already had, so I was encouraged. But as I sat in class and thought about my Tangled Strands story, I was pretty sure I did not have an event traumatic enough to qualify as the bleakest moment.
One of the features of the classes Angie teaches is that at the close, participants have the opportunity to sign up for a fifteen-minute, one-on-one time slot with her to ask specific questions relevant to their story. One of the topics for which I chose to use my time was the bleakest moment issue.
I explained to her that the closest I came to one was the crisis with the baby’s illness and being rushed to the hospital near the end of the story. She asked, “Could you have the baby die?” That was any easy one to answer. “No!” I need that “baby” many years later as the main character in book #4—if, of course, this ever goes that far.
As I thought about it following the conference, I realized the part that needed to be “bleaker” had to be in the relationship between the guy and the gal. The baby crisis actually brings them closer together, another reason it would not work. Something needed to happen that drives them further apart. It didn’t take me long to figure out how I could accomplish that, and I set to work on it. I like what I came up with, but I’d like to find a couple more ways to make it even bleaker.
The biggest challenge was creating that new first chapter, the one where it happens to Sharon. In the original, the first chapter was where her friends find out that she has, without a word to anyone, taken off—skipped out—with a charmer in a yellow convertible. What I had to do was show her in the act of doing the skipping. That took some adjustment in my thinking, and I still had some decisions to make about just how much of that I would cover. Since then, I have rewritten it again, twice.
Of course the logic of starting with the main character makes such perfect sense—now that I know who my main character is supposed to be. The truth is, writing that new first chapter was only a first step. I continue to look for ways to give Sharon more of a focus in the early parts of the story.