As a thriller writer, whether action or psychological, the beginning and end of a novel are not usually the danger zones. It’s the middle. That’s the part when things can slow down or get confusing, and the reader can put the book down and begin searching on Netflix… So, you need something to keep the reader, and even the writer, going full steam ahead. And what is more attracting and compulsive than a black hole?
The theory is simple. Whether using a three, four or even five-act structure, there need to be big events, cruxes at the pivotal points, that pull the reader in, make them gasp and think ‘No no no! How the hell is she going to get out of this?‘ In black hole terms, it must appear as if the hero(ine) has passed the event horizon, as well as their emotional nadir. [Think Harry Potter in the last volume/film, where he goes alone to meet Voldemort to let him kill him].
As a writer, I need this too. It acts as a hostage to fortune. I can see the black hole approaching, my characters cannot. But it begins to spin them, to throw them off balance as they get closer and the forces stronger. This keeps my writing urgent, sharp, whether its an action thriller or the one I’m writing now, a psychological thriller. The gravity pulls me along, too.
But then what comes after? How does the protagonist escape the event horizon? Something must be jettisoned, something or someone they care about, so that the reader knows there are consequences, that this is not a fairy story, that a happy ending is not guaranteed. Then, as the finale approaches, the mother of all black holes, the reader feels the jeopardy.
In my current book, the dead can lie, there are four cruxes: at the very beginning (it starts with the hero about to blow his brains out), then at one third, two thirds, and the finale. I’m working towards the third one right now, and gravity is calling…