Writing the Black Moment in Romance

Writing the Black Moment in Romance

As a reader, the black moment is one of the most delicious parts of the book. During the black moment, the main characters experience intense emotional turmoil as they face their ultimate fears. It is the pivotal turning point that, that like the inciting event, will change the course of each of our love bird’s lives. It’s the catalyst for the intense emotional struggle that leads to the ultimate resolution and growth of the main characters.

Expertly crafted black moments have the power to elicit strong emotional responses from readers, drawing them further into the story and increasing their investment in the characters’ journey. It takes readers on a journey from hope to despair, from heartache to triumph. This emotional rollercoaster provides is the center of enjoyment for romance readers.

Understanding the Black Moment in a Romance Novel

The black moment in a romance novel serves a crucial purpose in the story. It is the moment when everything seems lost for the main characters, plunging them into their darkest fears and insecurities. It is the fear come true. For that reason, the characters’ goals and fears, their flaws and wounds should be well-established so that readers can feel the despair or anger or grief along with the character as they endure this all-is-lost moment.

This pivotal turning point tests the strength of their relationship and forces them to confront their flaws, ultimately propelling the story towards its resolution.

By understanding the significance of the black moment, writers can create emotional stories that resonate with readers. This powerful plot device not only adds intensity and depth to the narrative but also allows readers to connect with the characters on a profound and personal level.


Recently, many readers have been expressing dislike of the black moment. In examining some of these complaints, I come to believe that it’s not the black moment they don’t like, but how it is executed. Two common complaints are:

  1. Misunderstanding – This is a plot device to create tension and the black moment breakup, in romance. The problem is that if the situation can be remedied with a simple conversation, the moment feels forced and contrived. It has readers rolling their eyes.
  2. Breakup, angsty, dark, drama – There are readers out there who complain about the black moment being over the top or too emotionally negative. With that said, there are readers who love that stuff. In this case, marketing your book to the right reader is the key to avoiding complaints.

Many interpret the idea of the black moment as being dark, angsty or requiring a breakup, and that’s not necessarily the case. Yes, this moment should cause some level of pain because characters are having to look their fears in the face and make a decision. But that can happen in many different ways.

In Pride and Prejudice, the black moment for Elizabeth and Darcy was societal norms slapping them in the face when Lydia’s actions ruined the reputation of the Bennet family. But, there are many friends to lovers romances (Lauren Blakely has many of these) in which the black moment is soft. For example, a couple might be indulging their attraction while hiding their true feelings, until one or the other has to move across the country for a new job. When the moment comes that the character has to move, and the couple is saying their goodbyes, secretly grieving inside, is the black moment. There’s no fighting. No misunderstanding. But it’s still painful and a loss.

Or, your romance can be a suspense, and the black moment is danger. In my romantic mystery series, once we get to book 2, the black moment is always the bad guy showing up and threatening the characters’ lives.

What’s most important for this moment is that acts like the inciting event at the beginning of the book, except it’s the catalyst for the characters’ ultimate change. Further, it needs to be plausible and believable within the context of the story. It should make sense for the characters and the situation they find themselves in.

Setting Up the Black Moment

Write with Harte Beat SheetIf you look at story structure, you can see that you start at the beginning of the story and move upward, with a few ups and downs, toward the peak of the story, which is the black moment. During that ride up, there are a few things you can do to build up the emotional impact of the black moment.


Foreshadowing and building tension are crucial components when setting up the black moment in a romance novel. These elements create a sense of anticipation and unease throughout the story, leading to a more impactful and emotionally charged black moment.

Throughout your novel, strategically place hints and clues that allude to the upcoming black moment. Pinch points (or Ut-Oh’s as I like to call them) offer two points at which to foreshadow the black moment.

These hints can be subtle or more overt, depending on the tone and pacing of your story. They should create a sense of intrigue and foreshadow the imminent emotional climax.

Situational Foreshadowing

Consider using situational foreshadowing to drop subtle hints about the challenges the characters will face. This could be through dialogue, actions, or even symbolic objects that carry deeper meaning. For example, in an office romance in which the boss can be ousted from the company for having a relationship with an employee, a situational foreshadowing could be a board member telling the boss he’s hearing rumors about an affair.

Character Foreshadowing

This is really where the black moment occurs…the character faces their big fear. To do this, develop your characters in a way that reveals their fears, insecurities, wounds, and potential conflicts. To build tension, gradually increase the stakes and obstacles that the main characters encounter. The conflicts they face should escalate, creating a sense of rising pressure and emotional turmoil.

Inner thoughts and emotions can convey the characters’ growing unease, along side situational foreshadowing that forces them to reassess the stakes. The boss who finds his very being wrapped up in his company will be afraid of losing it. Having scenes with thoughts and feelings about building the company and how the company has made him into somebody, provides the information needed to understand the stakes he’s risking by having an affair with someone who works for him. These conflicts escalate through the story, creating a sense of rising pressure and emotional turmoil.

Remember to pace the buildup of tension appropriately. The black moment should occur at the peak of emotional intensity, where the stakes feel highest and the resolution seems most challenging.

Romantic Tension

The black moment only works if the reader is emotionally involved with the characters. They need to feel the growing affection as well as the tension growing between them. This involves creating a palpable connection between the main characters, building up their chemistry and attraction throughout the story. By teasing the reader with moments of longing, desire, and conflicts, the emotional stakes are raised and the anticipation for their ultimate union is intensified.

Setup for Growth

The black moment is where the 5h!t hits the fan for our characters, whether it’s dark and angsty or light and fluffy. They are forced to face their fears or the consequences of their choices, and ultimately, this moment will lead to their growth. The black moment should be a reflection of what they need to learn and how they need to change to find happiness. By bringing these conflicts to a head, the characters are given the opportunity to confront their issues head-on, leading to personal growth and transformation.

Be Strong

Even if you’re writing a cozy black moment, you have to make your characters face their fear and feel the loss. Remember, this is the situation that pushes them to change. Without it, they keep going on just as they have, which hasn’t been an HEA.

Make it Necessary

This speaks to two ideas; 1) don’t toss any old bad situation in that doesn’t make sense to the story and 2) make sure that you’ve set up the story that this moment is inevitable for change to occur and the HEA attainted.

Avoiding Common Mistakes in the Black Moment

When it comes to crafting the black moment in a romance novel, it’s essential to avoid common mistakes that can undermine its impact. By steering clear of these pitfalls, you can ensure that your black moment resonates with readers and leaves a lasting impression. Here are some common missteps to avoid:

Rushing Through the Black Moment

One of the most common mistakes in writing the black moment is rushing through it without allowing enough time for the emotional struggle and character growth to unfold naturally. The black moment should be a pivotal point in the story, where the tension and stakes reach their peak.

My personal preference is to have characters retreat, trying to go back to their lives before the inciting event, only to find they can’t. I like them to experience life holding onto their fears or lies (misery), instead of growing. I give it a chapter or two.

However, for lighter black moments, you can wallow in the moment on the page, but in terms of timing in the story, the change can happen fairly quickly. Perhaps the change is unfolding already, and it’s the black moment that pushes them into growth.

I can’t remember what book it was by Lauren Blakely, but it was a friends to lovers in which one was moving across the country. They were saying goodbye after their fling (black moment), and I don’t think the door shut before one confessed their love. However, that scene saying goodbye, wasn’t just the black moment. It also had all the other beats to the HEA…feeling the misery, having the epiphany, and then finally, being brave enough to reach for love.

Making the Black Moment Implausible

Another mistake to avoid is creating a black moment that feels implausible or disconnected from the rest of the story. The black moment should be grounded in the characters’ experiences and motivations, making it believable within the context of the narrative. A simple misunderstanding from an overheard conversation or text from an ex really isn’t enough. Take the time to establish the necessary groundwork and foreshadowing, ensuring that the black moment feels like a natural progression rather than a contrived plot device.


What is the black moment in a romance novel?

The black moment in a romance novel is a pivotal turning point that serves as the emotional climax of the story. It involves a moment of intense emotional struggle and character conflict, creating a relationship crisis that must be overcome for the characters to achieve their happily ever after.

Why is the black moment significant in a romance novel?

The black moment is significant because it tests the strength of the main characters’ relationship and forces them to confront their fears and insecurities. It serves as a catalyst for character growth and propels the story towards its resolution.

How do I create a powerful black moment in my romance novel?

To create a powerful black moment, make it personal to the main characters by tying it to their fears, insecurities, and past experiences. Foreshadow the black moment and gradually build tension throughout the story. Ensure that the black moment is plausible and believable within the context of the story.

How does the black moment resolve character conflicts?

The black moment forces the main characters to confront their flaws and insecurities, leading to personal growth and resolution. It provides an opportunity for them to overcome their internal conflicts and achieve a deeper understanding of themselves and their relationship.

How does the black moment create emotional impact in a romance novel?

The black moment is the emotional climax of the story, heightening romantic tension between the main characters. It forces them to face their deepest fears and insecurities, evoking strong emotions in both the characters and readers. The resolution of the black moment should provide a satisfying emotional release.

What mistakes should I avoid when crafting the black moment?

Common mistakes to avoid include rushing through the black moment, making it implausible or disconnected from the rest of the story, and leaving readers feeling unsatisfied or cheated. Take time to develop the emotional struggle and character growth within the black moment.

Can you provide examples of powerful black moments in romance novels?

In Pride and Prejudice, the black moment is when Elizabeth and Darcy are finally coming together, but then her sister Lydia runs off with Wickham. The scandal makes it so none of the daughters in the Bennet family have marriage prospects. The growth has already started happening at this point, as Elizabeth and Darcy are letting go of some of their pride and prejudice, but a societal conflict mucks things up for them.

In Red, White, and Royal Blue, the black moment is when Henry’s fears of being outed and rejected by his family and people cause him to pull away from Alex.

In The Duke and I (Bridgerton book 1), the black moment is when Daphne takes advantage of Simon in the hopes of getting pregnant, which he feels as a betrayal as well as forcing him to do something he vowed he’d never do, carry on the family name.

These black moments lead to character growth and resolution.

How does the black moment contribute to character transformation?

The black moment pushes the main characters to confront their fears, insecurities, and flaws, ultimately leading to personal growth and transformation. Through this experience, they learn valuable lessons and make positive changes in their lives.

How should the black moment be integrated into the plot?

The black moment generally occurs at the end of Act 2A (about 75% in the book). What’s most important is that the black moment should be a natural progression of the story and the character arcs. By strategically placing the black moment in the narrative, it becomes a driving force that propels the story towards its resolution.


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