The Journey to a Bestseller: Essential Scenes in Every Story- Part Four- Dark Night of the Soul and Chapter Hooks (Series #16)

Good day everyone. Well, it’s night, but you get the idea. I’ve been writing this week about the second pinch point, or second battle. In the story, I have the MC happen to meet the crazy king who tells him that the people he thought he was responsible for killing, are actually prisoners in the reformatory.

I am making the reformatory as creepy as I can think of. There is a living machine that can sense your deepest fears and create that scenario and put you in the middle of it. He starts out with a pretty mundane fear, but then the MC thinks, “I’m not really afraid of that, I’m really afraid of…” And then he’s put in the middle of it. So at the back of his mind, he’s trying NOT to think of fears worse than the one he’s experiencing. I hope I do a good job with that. I think it’s going really well so far.

So, the MC has to go out and find help, but ultimately, this mission is up to him. And he knows that this is the only way he’s ever going to get a chance with Sira, because she is seriously pissed that he got her friends killed. I’m still writing the rescue scene of the prisoners. Remember, in your second battle with the bad guy, they will lose, and it will somehow be the protagonist’s fault.

I am thinking that I might have half of them escape with Wyll (the MC) or his friend, the Resistance leader. Or, I could have the people get out, but Wyll gets captured? I suppose any part of it that goes wrong will be his responsibility, but I have to somehow make it his fault.

Already, the rescue crew is wondering, since our info came directly from the king, who’s to say the prisoners weren’t really murdered, and the whole thing is a trap? But if there’s a chance their friends are alive, they need to move, and move fast. Wyll doesn’t want them tortured any more than they already have been.

I need to be sure to include a profession of Wyll’s feelings for Sira and have them unreturned. If I get that written this week, I will be moving on to the next plot point: the “dark night of the soul.” If you are a writer and you have not heard this terminology yet, let me inform you. Because you will eventually hear it, and sometimes a lot.

Thought Catalogue* says, “The dark night of the soul is a spiritual depression, a kind of existential crisis, that requires a deep and painful dip that must be experienced before enlightenment.

The “dark night of the soul” is a concept that has been discussed for millennia, typically associated with a poem written by St. John of the Cross. It references the sort of spiritual depression or detox that someone has to go through to “wake up.” (*They have a good article on how to tell if you are having an existential crisis yourself, but that is not what I’m talking about here for the writer. )

The crisis I’m talking about is for the Main Character. Once they’ve lost the second battle, they will react badly, which makes everything start to spiral downwards. After that, they retreat, he gives up, everything he knows is a lie, nothing’s right, the hero/heroine doesn’t love me, I can’t do this, yadda yadda. This is their “dark night of the soul.” They believe they have lost everything and given up all hope. Let them wallow in it for a bit. Throw a pity party for them.

Once that’s been fleshed out, it’s about time to get a pep talk from their mentor, or they might have a dream of importance. But they start to come out of their slump and they stir up a new resolve to press onward and devise a plan to defeat the antagonist.

I have heard, I believe it was from Derek Murphy, that every chapter must change the story in some way. Either it was going good for the characters, and by the end of the chapter they are doing poorly, or they were sad and by the end they are happy, or angry. Change the mood and/or situation; each chapter is like a scene and you must have an arc for each one.

Something I find I tell authors often is: Always end your chapters with a hook. Scenes come to a natural end. After there’s action, there will be a period of rest and reacting. Do not end your chapter there! Why? Because if there is a conclusion at the end of the chapter, the reader will say, that’s a good stopping point and close the book.

Once that book is shut, they may remember that they had a load of laundry, and need to fix dinner, and fall to bed exhausted. Who knows if/when they will pick your book up again? Maybe it was a library book and they never get back to it in time and they just decide to turn it in? You don’t want that.

You want your reader to say, “After this chapter, I’m going to bed.” But when they get to the end and there’s a hook, they can’t stop reading. They need to see what comes next. They end up reading til two am because they just couldn’t stop. The best compliment a book can have is, “I couldn’t put it down.” If they can read it in one sitting, and they do. You’ve done something right.

So how do you do that? I once went through and added questions to the end of each chapter in a book, before I knew better, of course. That hopefully excited the reader and asked a question that the reader would need to read on to find out. And it worked okay, but that’s not the “real” way seasoned authors do it.

The best and easiest way to do it is this: After that exciting scene is done and come to it’s natural conclusion, begin the next scene, and just when things get exciting… end the chapter. The reader can’t help but keep going, they are invested in this scene already. The next chapter begins just as the action is taking place and runs it’s course. Then you start the next scene and… end chapter. That’s one of the reasons you start the first chapter with some type of action. They should all start with some kind of action.

Well, it’s a short blog this week, but keep pushing ahead with me. My word count so far is: 43,179 if you’re keeping track with me. Let’s talk next weekend! And as always, you are welcome to comment and/or email.

Keep writing!


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