Plot Essentials: The Darkest Hour

Photo credit: Thalita Carvalho on Flickr
Okay, so maybe that plot point name is a bit dramatic, but to be honest, I can’t remember the official name of this point, and that basically sums it up. So. Anyway. 

The darkest hour is the point in your manuscript where your protagonist has reached his lowest point. This usually comes right before the climax—it’s where all hope seems lost and the worst of the worst has happened and your protagonist doesn’t know how they’re going to overcome their insurmountable odds.

Keeping with our examples from the last plot essentials posts, here are the darkest hours from some popular novels. If you haven’t read any of these, please skip over that particular example, because SPOILERS. You’ve been warned:
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling): Harry is dead. Voldemort has finally killed the boy who lived, the Battle of Hogwarts is lost and the wizarding world’s only hope is gone.

    Note: I chose the last Harry Potter book rather than the first in the previous examples because this is one of the best darkest hour points that I can think of in literature, period. 

  • City of Bones (Cassandra Clare): Valentine has opened up the gates to demons, Jace seems to be cooperating with him and worse—Clary and Jace are siblings and definitely shouldn’t be in love with each other.

  • Divergent (Veronica Roth): Tris’s parents are dead, all of her friends are under a simulation that’s turned them into mindless murderers, innocent Abnegation citizens are being killed and now Four has fallen prey to a simulation that has turned him against her. 
The darkest hour is actually one of my favorite plot points to write, because it shows our characters at their lowest point, which really allows us to get a sense of what they have to overcome and makes the eventual victory that much sweeter. Also, I’ve found that how characters (and people) behave when they’re at their lowest really says a lot about their character.

All that said, if you get the darkest hour right, then the ending and victory becomes much stronger and more powerful than it would have been otherwise.

Can you identify the darkest hour in your WIP or favorite book?
Working on a plot for your WIP? Writers @Ava_Jae discusses the importance of the darkest hour. (Click to tweet)  
Do you know your WIP’s darkest hour? Writer @Ava_Jae talks identifying this plot point, with examples. (Click to tweet)


Ava Jae said...

Oh really? Awesome! Maybe I remembered correctly, ha ha. As for fighting your way there, I definitely understand. Keep going! You'll reach it. :)

Caroline McDonough said...

Your examples really helped give my plotting brain a good kick-start. I think I've figured out how to fix my current project's trajectory. Thanks!

Ava Jae said...

Oh yay! I'm so happy to hear that. :) I wish you all the best with your writing!

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