Sunday, March 18, 2007


In a discussion recently the subject came up about the black moment in a romance novel - the point in the book where all appears lost and the hero and the heroine part ways temporarily until they get back together and live happily ever after.

One person commented the black moment is why she didn't read romance - that the contrived black moment was too unrealistic - and that in real life, relationships never survived black moments.

And then someone else asked the question if any of us had personally survived a black moment in our own relationships - not a spat - but a true black moment when you seriously thought the relationship was over.

I'd never been asked that question before.

And it shocked me when I realized that - Holy Crap! yes - I had survived a real life black moment before my happily ever after. Funny how you forget things like that after twenty years. :)

So how about a game of share-and-tell? I'll share my real life black moment if you'll share yours.

The dh and I had been dating for two years. I was a divorced-for-sixteen-years independent-as-hell single mom. He was a divorced-for-eight years guy with no kids. From the beginning I told him I wouldn't even consider marriage until my daughter graduated from high school.

Graduation approached (gulp) but when he started making big "M" noises, I changed my story and said I meant "until she graduated from college." Amused, he wasn't. He told me it was obvious that I didn't think he was the best that I could do, so he'd bow out and make room for someone better. And he did. 

One week went by and I decided I was better off without him. Two weeks went by and almost called him, but my pride wouldn't let me. Three long weeks went by and I still didn't hear a word from him. The middle of the fourth week he called. He said he didn't want to talk to me, he was still mad as hell. He just wanted to make sure my daughter and I were okay.

I asked him what he was doing for Easter. He asked, "Why?" We were married Easter weekend 1987. This year we'll celebrate 20 years of happily ever after.

So, pfffffffftttttt on the woman who claims there are no black moment survivors in real life.

I've told you mine - now you tell me yours!

Candy Halliday


Sonja Foust said...

Well, I can't tell you mine because it's too personal, but I've had one. :-) And I agree, "pffffft!" to non-black moment believers.

Shari Anton said...

Great story, Candy! Thanks for sharing it with us.

Kimber said...

Every relationship goes through tests. My marriage was tested when we figured out we couldn't have kids and that we couldn't adopt.

It is merely that in romances, a big test usually happens during the courtship stage. The question is not if a relationship could survive but could THAT fresh new relationship survive? Has the author shown that the couple has already bonded enough that they could survive?

loriwilde said...

My happily ever after ran smoothly but I'm teaching an ongoing online course on writing romance and one of the students argued with me saying that he didn't think there should be black moments in romance novels. Well, excuse me, if there's no black moment, then why isn't the book over in chapter two? I'd never heard anyone aruge the point before. There's a black moment in all commerical genre fiction. Now perhaps a particular author isn't skilled enough to pull off a believable one, but there's no reason to throw the black moment out with the bathwater.

Candy Halliday said...

No fair not sharing, Sonja!

I'm going to run you down at the next HCRW meeting and hound you until you spill. :)


Candy Halliday said...

Thanks, Shari!


Candy Halliday said...


Well said - the whole journey in a romance novel is the hero and heroine working through obstacles and finding love and happiness with each other.

Too bad most non-romance readers slap a "just about sex" label on the genre without taking the time to experience what romance has to offer.


Candy Halliday said...


You do "the black moment" better than anyone I know.

So glad you're teaching others the skill of the craft!


AliceAnderson said...

I think you're the exception rather than the rule. :) I've never had a black moment. My dh and I have never had a fight, unless you count the one time we argued about who left the mustard out. :-)

So no, I don't really believe in black moments much. And yes, many do seem contrived. Perhaps that's b/c I'm not truly in the character's mind/shoes. If I'm not, it's easy to say "get over yourself and go to him."

So perhaps that's a lesson. As the black moment approaches you should try harder than ever to make sure your reader is in the character's shoes. It's hard to do, I agree.

This is why I tend to prefer external black moments from most writers. At least I find men with guns believable. :)

In your case, I'd want to know why the heck you told the guy to wait until your daughter graduated from high school and then changed your story. :) Obviously that's a personal decision, but as a reader I would need to know that and believe it without a shadow of a doubt. And that's the problem, from the outside it's easy to think "what were you thinking?" but from the inside you're a person with feelings, fears, etc. and that determines your actions and reactions. As a writer, you'd have to let us in on all of that, to make it believable. Make it clear and concise.

As they say, fiction has to make sense. So as a writer you'd have to make what looks to be an odd decision a believable one that we're sympathetic to.

I'm so glad you worked it out. :) And what a gorgeous wedding it must have been. I was married in the fall, but every year the azaleas make me wish I'd been married in the spring. :)

The other thing is it seems like so many black moments are invented, like the whole book is great (lack of conflict) and suddenly I'm supposed to believe everything is over.

I also don't believe that the black moment has to happen at the end (which is a "rule" I've heard before). I think it can happen anywhere. After all, a book is just a clip from the characters lives.

I'd like to see more solid romances about already married couples. I'd like to see more romances without contrived conflict. And I'd like to see more romances with nontraditional black moments.

But that's just my two cents. :)

Marie said...

I just found this blog while I was searching for info on the difference between a catalyst and a black moment in a romance novel...and I'm so glad I found it because I hadn't really thought about it myself. Hubby and I were just friends for just over a year before we got together. I was so in love with him and he (later) told me that he loved me too but thought he wasn't good enough for me. He lived 500 miles away from me and I was still in high school and he called one day and told me he was getting married to someone else.

In my eyes, that meant there was no chance for us ever. It broke my heart but I didn't cry on the phone, just told him I wanted him to be happy and I was happy for him if this girl was really who he wanted to spend his life with.

A couple of months later, he called me and told me he couldn't go through with it, that he really loved me and wondered if we could try to make things work even though we lived so far apart.

We've just celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary and are still as madly in love now- probably more so- than we were back then.