Last week, our own Lindi Peterson touched briefly on the topic of black moments framed from the perspective of The Storm Before the Rainbow. Many of you know I’ve experienced my own storm this past year, and I’ve clung to the hope of seeing the rainbow with everything I’ve had. Today I’d like to go deeper on the topic, and maybe even get a little personal.
If you’re still not clear on the term “black moment,” it’s that pivotal point between the second and third act when all hope seems lost. The main character is faced with losing what their heart longs for most—what they’ve been fighting for or against the whole story—and must face internal conflict that’s driven them to or from their goal all along.
Generally, it’s a false belief (i.e. I’ll never love again, I can’t be with him/her) or fear (i.e. everyone leaves, I’m unworthy of love) or both. Whatever it is, that thing holds them back from moving forward toward their happy ending until they confront it and accept the truth.
It’s especially beautiful in Christian fiction because we know the Source of all hope, freedom, and love, so when the hero or heroine faces their darkest moment, there’s a natural opportunity for them to be free of it in Christ. Obviously, that doesn’t always require a profound salvation moment on the pages. Many times it’s simply applying what they know to be true because of their faith and finally surrendering it to the Lord. Christian characters, like real-life Christians, naturally go through storms that require us to surrender.
To be completely honest, I don’t always love black moments in fiction.
I’ve been known to choose books by authors who don’t write them at all (like Brooke St. James), simply because I’ve had enough black moments in my life or in my loved one’s lives that I just need something completely happy to escape into. A romance where the relationships are easy. There’s conflict, obviously, because conflict always drives any story, but that conflict doesn’t always come from an internal issue or tension between hero and heroine. Sometimes it’s a circumstance or inconvenience that they deal with, without a lot of drama, and everything ends well.
But while I thrive on those books, they aren’t typically the ones that stick with us. The books that leave a profound mark—when we close the cover with a sigh and simply hold it in our arms, savoring that deliciously satisfying feeling—give us that satisfaction by putting us through the wringer. By putting the characters through the wringer. The deeper the lows, the more gratifying the highs.
It’s been two years of black (at at least dark and bleak) moments for most everyone I know, but this is where the power of story really hits home for me. Where story translates from fictional escape to real-world application. The victories we read on the pages give us hope that in our own black moments, God will be there for us, too, speaking love and truth and peace into our storms and reminding us that He made the rainbow to come after as a promise.
Sometimes I write my own personal black moments into my characters.
For instance, Ada in More Than Enough battles perfectionism and feelings she’ll never be enough no matter how much she does and does and does for other people. It was hard to knock her down in the length of a novella, but I know all too well how those feelings can be a tripping hazard and get in the way of surrendering all to the Father. I sat in that theater with her, knowing intimately that no amount of doing and helping and fixing will ever be enough to silence the lies that I AM NOT enough. But HE is.
Jenna from Whatever Happens Next cries out to God because she used to hear His voice so naturally. She sees the dust on her Bible and opens its pages and wonders why He no longer speaks to her that way. Does He still love her? Why can’t she hear Him anymore? Feel His presence? Oh, how I cried with her because I was going through my own dry spell spiritually and I ACHED to feel His embrace again.
And while I’ve never personally endured what Gina in Whatever Comes Our Way did, I’ve had panic attacks. I’ve felt the slithers of anxiety crawling under my skin and keeping me from trusting the Lord completely.
For these characters, their black moments had the potential to keep them separated from the loves of their lives, from finding romance and happily ever afters. That may not be the risk we face in our own black moments, of course, but that doesn’t mean fictional black moments don’t still translate into our own realities.
Every time I’ve faced my own darkest moments, knowing God was there, that He saw me, CHANGED ME permanently. He took something that was crushing me and keeping me from Him and performed open heart surgery, removing that issue and replacing it with a story of victory that I can walk in each day. I can remember MY story and help impact someone else’s by sharing it in some way.
Next month, I’ll be speaking at a women’s conference on my very blackest, capital letters Black Moment. Reliving it all as I put together my message—looking at the pictures of what I looked like at my worst in the hospital as I fought for my life, re-reading texts and posts from those weeks—has been HARD. It’s putting me through the wringer all over again. But I can’t wait to tell this story. I can’t wait for the opportunity to write those feelings into future characters.
All because of the power of story; the power of testimony. The power of the black moment to move us from our stuck place, our worst place, into HIS best for us. The line between fiction and reality is often a thin one. And praise God for that. Because isn’t it wonderful to have hope? To know that after the darkest of night comes the dawn?
So tell me in the comments—what fictional black moment resonated deeply within you? What character’s pivotal moment left an impact on you because you understood it and felt understood yourself? (Titles/authors without spoilers, please.)
Remember, we’re in the middle of the Back to School Bash, so your comments become entries into our many, many amazing giveaways! I can’t wait to see what inspirational romance titles you suggest. And if you have some go-to authors for escaping black moments entirely, well, I’m totally open to those as well. We need a bit of balance in our lives, don’t we? Ha ha!
Until next time,