Thursday, November 21, 2013

# Guest Blog # NaNoWriMo

Writing Your Hero's Darkest Hour

Part of a special month-long event featuring writing tips and NaNoWriMo strategies from guest writers and fellow NaNo participants.

Writing Your Hero's Darkest Hour
by Jennifer Roush

Mon, Nov. 21, 2013:
Expected Wordcount: 35,000 Words
Today is a pivotal day in Nanowrimo. Most of you have broken through the dreaded Week Two slow-down. You’ve committed to your characters and your plot, and you’re about 70% of the way through your manuscript (or not). If you’re anything like me, you’re already setting up your Final Confrontation, and it looks like your book is either far too short or really much too long.
I’ve had both happen to me; one time in the same November! What does it mean for a manuscript to fall short or go long, anyway? Really, it has nothing to do with the number of words. What it comes down to is what your characters are going through, and where they are in their trek: Are they impossibly far from the Final Confrontation, or are they knocking on its door?
Either of these is unpleasant to be facing at the beginning of week 4. So, if it’s not about word count, then how do you know if your book is too close or too far away from the climax? The short answer is: The Darkest Hour.
Wherever you are in your plotline, consider the following things: What is the climax of your story? Is it Good winning out over Evil? Is it Evil overpowering Good? Is it humanity versus Zombies? How is your story going to end?
Got your ending? Great. Now for the Darkest Hour: How can you make your ending seem completely insurmountable/impossible/the wrong decision?
Before a character hits the climax of the story, the ending has to be as far away from the character as it can possibly get, and yet, it also has to drive the character toward it inexorably. How do you achieve that? By making the resolution appear impossible, having your character flail around in the misery and muck, and then letting your character slog, fight, or noodle his/her way out of the Darkest Hour to join the battle in the Climax.
When your book seems like it’s ending prematurely on you, look to see if you let your character really slog through an impossible-looking situation. Odds are, he/she hasn’t. Odds are, things did not get so bad for your character that giving up seemed to be the best route. Odds are, you haven’t plumbed the depths of your character’s core values, those things that force him or her to get up and keep up the good fight.
On the other hand, if it seems that your ending is impossibly far away, then your character isn’t hungry enough. Not enough bad decisions, bad breaks, and bad betrayals have pushed your MC down. You need to really beat out every last ounce of fight they have in them. Then your character’s path is clear: Give up, or push toward the end.
How low can your MC go? What is the thing that is truly important to your MC? What really matters in his/her life? What is non-negotiable? This is the source of your character’s motivation. This is the source of your character’s life. This is what will make your reader understand and respect your MC.
Coincidentally, it will also allow your book to finish “on time”. Perhaps with more or less than 50,000 words, but at least as a complete story.

And if your book should end on its own, short of the 50,000 word goal, and you find yourself in your own Darkest Hour? Why, go back and add some killer foreshadowing, of course!

About the Author
Jennifer Roush has been writing forever. As Grand Vizier of her high school's Writer's Club; assistant editor and contributor to the Daemen "Ascent"; and Editor of the literary magazine "Buffalo Tales" in Buffalo, NY, she has worked with and learned from amazing authors all over the country. She has authored several novels and novellae, all available on Amazon. Currently, she lives in Colorado with her amazing husband and two children. She enjoys writing in several genres, including speculative fiction and Chick Lit. Stay current with her website, which includes her current literary project: "Diary of a Housewife Turned Space Captain", as well as other books, short stories, poetry, essays, and soon to be loaded up with the best writing tips Jennifer has ever found.
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  1. Thanks for swinging by my blog to share your darkest hour strategy, Jennifer!

  2. Good stuff--had me thinking about my own story while I was reading it. And I love her advice for if the story is ending short of 50,000! Good post. Thanks :-)


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