In every romance worth the name, the author is duty bound to subject the main characters to a big black moment, or BBM in the parlance of the trade. This is the point in the book where He and She know they’re in love. They know the relationship they have has already changed them from the people they were in the beginning of the book, but as their regard for each other has grown, so too have the obstacles they face.
Somewhere past page 300, for a few pages at least, All Is Lost. True Love lies panting in the ditch, suffocated by doubt, misgivings, circumstances, and the author’s inventiveness run amok. This is where the reader (one fervently hopes) realizes it’s waaaaay past bedtime, and instead of rolling over and turning off the light, figures another 47 pages won’t take that long… thus jeopardizing their morning, their day at work, possibly even their career to see how the lovers triumph over all the dastardly odds conspiring against them.
As a prudent author, one who knows that the BBM can make or break the book, I’ve pondered how to wreck the human spirit. The day job has been very accommodating in this regard because child welfare court provides an endless parade of wrecked spirits.
In my experience, people give up on their happily ever after, possibly even on their tomorrows of any kind, when they’re subjected to endless, pointless, isolated suffering.
Let’s unpack that.
When you know your troubles are going to be over by, say, next Tuesday, you can pretty much put up with those troubles, counting the days, hours, or minutes until Tuesday waddles by.
When you know you’re not in the misery alone, and you share community and camaraderie with even one other person (say a spouse), then you can hang in there, encourage each other, and find a hand to hold even in the dark.
When you know your suffering is producing progress toward a goal, whether it’s weight loss, solvency, or world peace, then you’re also motivated to cope for just a little while longer.
So in my books, I have to conspire to isolate my characters with endless, pointless pain, and snatch away from them any hope of reprieve. Too bad for my characters, though by page 376, they’ll have their happily ever after.
In my life, to keep my spirit strong, I have to keep good people around me, know what gives my life meaning and protect it, and make sure I celebrate the inchstones, because the milestones may never come to pass.
So… how about you? What wrecks your spirit, and what have you learned about making sure the Undertoad never triumphs for long?
To five commenters below, I’ll send a signed copy of “The Soldier.”