So far in the Developing Themes In Your Stories series at my DIY MFA column Theme: A Story’s Soul, we’ve covered three major plot points: the inciting incident, the Act I choice, and the midpoint. Today it’s time for the scene best known as the “dark night of the soul,” the moment when the protagonist experiences her worst crisis in the story and believes (mistakenly) that her story goal is out of reach. It’s also the scene that, when carefully examined, emphasizes the “why” behind the protagonist’s motivations and pulses with the story’s themes stronger than in any previous plot point.
Welcome to the Character Evolution Files! This column focuses on character arcs, from the elements that create or enhance a character’s inner journey, to techniques that writers can employ to strengthen character arcs in their own work. Today we continue our journey through the stages of the character arc with File No. 9, which focuses on the Dark Night of the Soul (or the end of Act II).
Characters, like real people, can tolerate internal conflict for only so long. When they reach their breaking point, there is no right solution, but an only solution. In the case of a positive character arc, the protagonist has dealt with all kinds of stress and upheaval while working toward his story goal. And after the Charge, which tugged him back and forth between his false belief and its opposite truth, he’s about to snap. It’s here that he arrives at the darkest hour of his evolution, and realizes he has but one solution for achieving his goal – or else he’ll fail.
Yes, the Dark Night of the Soul is the subject of Character Evolution File No. 9. We’ll cover how the protagonist finally weighs the pros and cons of his false belief and the truth, and how the scene symbolizes the death of the character’s old self. Plus, we’ll visit our example characters once again as they make their most important choice in their respective stories. Continue reading