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Strip them bare – Expose your characters inner demons with the 12th beat’s Dark Night of the Soul

This year, Writing Raven Author Solutions is breaking down the 15 beats of writing a bestselling novel based on the three-act structure for you.

Blake Snyder’s 15 beat-outline is a popular story structure framework used by many screenwriters and novelists. As a writing coach, one of the most pivotal beats I emphasize to new writers is the “Dark Night of the Soul.”

The 12th Beat in your story is where the protagonist hits rock bottom—their hopes, dreams, and goals seem utterly lost.

Your protagonist has tried and failed, experienced crushing setbacks, and now faces their biggest fear coming true. As an audience, we’re left wondering how they can possibly recover from this low point.

How they respond to this soul-crushing torment – the emotions they experience, the lessons they learn, the flaws they must overcome – allows you to strip them bare and expose their innermost self.

 

Do they crumble and surrender?

Or do they dig deeper and find the strength to persevere?

 

From the ashes of the Dark Night rises the last act’s fired-up determination and final push towards the climactic goal. It sets the stage for you to write an incredible comeback that will resonate with your readers.

 

A classic example

 

In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke has suffered a brutal beatdown by Vader, lost his hand, and his dreams of becoming a Jedi lie in ruins. His world is shattered.

But in choosing to be rescued and receive cybernetic rehabilitation, he finds secret reserves of resilience that propel him into becoming a true Jedi warrior.

Even in real life, I’m sure you’ve experienced your own dark night of the soul—maybe more than once. Think about the emotions you dealt with. The fears you had to overcome.

 

How to use this beat for maximum effect

 

Take your protagonist and answer the following questions from their point of view.

What crushing setback have I suffered?

What fear, flaw, weakness, or missed opportunity has been exposed?

What choice of mindset or belief must I grapple with in order to turn things around?

Get raw, get vulnerable, get granular with their emotions.

Remember, this is a death of the old way of being and thinking.

Embrace how excruciating yet liberating it is to strip it all away.

The only path is up, bringing hard-won wisdom, inner resolve, and the massive Act III pivot that provides the payoff for readers.

The Dark Night of the Soul is one of the most challenging yet rewarding beats to nail as a writer. When done well, it’s a powerful crucible that forges unstoppable protagonists we can’t tear ourselves away from.

Dive deep into this beat and you’ll create a story that stays with readers long after the book closes.

Keep Crafting Your Masterpiece,

The Writing Ravens

Writing Raven Author Solutions has all your writing resources for starting your first novel, or finding success with your twentieth. We offer consultations, worksheets, premade and custom covers, and more. We accept credit cards and PayPal for your convenience.


Grab your copy of Writing Raven’s Breaking Down the Beats Worksheet here: http://writing-raven.com/product/breaking-down-the-beats-writing-exercise