The Point of Anguish

I’ve been pulling together the outline for my next book.  It has a fairly intricate plot and plenty of spice.  I’ve even written about the first ten pages of the manuscript.  Unfortunately, I realized today that I don’t have one essential ingredient figured out that will make this book fun to write:  The point of anguish.

There’s a piece of advice I’ve heard that I think is very useful:  Know what your characters would do anything to obtain, or anything to avoid.  This is related to what I’m talking about, but it’s not quite the same.  For me, the point of anguish is a scene I hold onto that is fraught with powerful emotion, usually loss.  (For Veiled Mirror the scene I held onto was when Jason first sees Ellie, his lover’s identical twin, after being told Beth is dead.) It’s not the same as the Black Moment that many romance writers talk about.  That usually comes shortly before the denouement, when all seems lost.

The point of anguish is linked to all the pain and sorrow the character endures throughout the story.  It’s nature reveals character, as does the way the protagonist copes with it.  As writers we have to torture our characters.  Without conflict and struggle, our stories would be boring.  For me, the point of anguish is an experience that all the other pain in the story is a lead in to, or a consequence of.  By the time you’re done writing there will be a lot of points of anguish in your book, but you have to have at least one to start with.

At least I do.

I found and used this technique instinctively for several of my stories, even if I didn’t know that was what I was doing.  Unfortunately, I didn’t really have one for the last book I wrote and writing it was a very long and hard row to hoe.  I’m still not satisfied with that one.  Likewise, I haven’t got a good point of anguish for this new book either.  Finding that has become my priority before I go any further.

There’s a ton of advice out there on how to write your book and make it great.  However even the best advice doesn’t work for everyone.  We all have to find our own way.  But if you’re feeling stuck on your current work-in-progress, try imagining the scene where your main character feels like he’s been emotionally sucker-punched, and go from there.


Filed under writing

4 responses to “The Point of Anguish

  1. Peggy

    Great advice. As you said, without conflict and struggle, our stories would be boring. Learning to torture characters comes naturally to some, but most of us must learn how to put our beloved characters through emotional and/or physical distress.

    • Yes, I start out torturing, but then I want to make it better for them too soon. One of the best shows I’ve seen for making things go wrong, then get worse, then even worse, was the original Stargate SG-1. It taught me to ask now what can go wrong?

  2. Caryn

    Ah ha! Thank you. That was the right phrase at the right time as I rewrite a story.

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