Monday, November 30, 2009

The Supreme Ordeal

The Supreme Ordeal is the black moment of your book. The hero faces the possibility of death and is brought to the brink in a battle with a hostile force. The reader is held in suspense and tension, not knowing how things will work out. Your hero is in the "belly of the whale."

This is a critical moment where the hero must die or appear to die so he can be "born again." The experiences of all the stages so far have led us (the reader) to this moment. Our job, as authors, has been to create such character/reader involvement, that the reader experiences the brink-of-death moment with the heroine. Emotions are temporarily depressed so they can be revived by the hero's return from death.

Every story needs a life-or-death moment in which the hero or his goals are in mortal jeopardy. This is the climax of the story. Everything hinges on this moment.

We want to build up to this point, pacing the story so we don't get there too soon or too late. And we don't want to make it obvious how our hero gets out of the horrendous situation.

If you've come this far in your story, how are you handling it?


  1. Oh my goodness. Hmm. Lemmie think.

    There is one idea where my main character actually dies, so I guess that would be the part where it happened ... but I don't think that's what you meant :)

    There is another part where my human main character must give up being a human and be 'reborn' in order to save her friends. That would probably qualify :)

    Is this an absolutely critical part? I don't think Woody Inn of Al has one. Blast. Back to the drawing board :p

  2. That would be telling, now, wouldn't it? ;o)

  3. HA! Yes, it would, Christine. Let's not give away any secrets.

    Every story has a climax/black moment. Some are more memorable than others. Let's look at the Lord of the Rings: When Frodo claims the Ring for his own - I believe that's the climax/black moment of the book. What do you think?

    I haven't written the climax of Fairyeater, but I've thought of it often. I think the way I'll handle it is to have it seem Akeela is doomed at the end of a chapter and in the next chapter, I'll switch to another POV. That keeps the reader hanging on for a little while longer.

  4. I agree that is the climax for Frodo, Pam. I think Sam's comes at a different moment.

    It seems to me that each character has their own. My story has two POV characters. For the hero, the climax is a physical, external conflict, and for the heroine it is more of an internal conflict. Actually, part of the goal of the story is to show how men and women fight their own types of battles with equal heroism.

    Each one saves the other at the crucial point, thus solidifying their relationship.

  5. In my WIP, in the final battle of the book, the people Annay is fighting along side are captured and put under the control of her enemy by magic. The her once friends capture her and take her to the warlord for the same fate.

  6. Another one of my ideas definitely has this moment. It's when his best friend is killed by the enemy. Suddenly he must shed all thoughts of going back. He is reborn through someone else's death, and comes back resurrected as the hero.

    I love being poetic :)