We're done for!

If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “it’s always darkest before the dawn,” you will be familiar with the narrative trope, “all hope is lost.” This is where the situation is the most dire for the hero, where the tide has turned completely on them, and they have all but accepted their defeat. In these action sequences, we often see examples of this right before a victorious turn.

Lucky sank to the floor. He looked up to see the trooper aiming his cannon. Squeezing the trigger. A shot went off –

– but not before Major Dashwood had somehow got between them.

This keeps our up-and-down pattern in full swing, but this climax is the ultimate jump from, “there’s no way they’re getting out of this!” to, “I can’t believe they made it out!” Often the deciding factor will, again, be something other than the protagonist that comes in to save the day. 

Notice Said’s use of the line breaks here again to force the beat between the moment of tension and moment of relief.

It’s important that you resolve conflict with a solution that makes sense. Readers can feel cheated if you drop in something that ends the conflict with no prior set up. If a space dragon that hadn’t been mentioned before came out of nowhere in this scene to protect Lucky, or Lucky drew a powerful weapon we didn’t know he had, it would not feel justified. This is a common trap that a lot of writers fall into, and have been for thousands of years, called ‘deus ex machina’ in reference to ancient Greek theatre.

The simplest way to avoid this is to use only what has been set up in the scene.

He writhed and jolted on the spot. Two of the remaining soldiers wildly charged towards him. Raising their rifles. Blindly taking aim –

– when a large tentacle knocked them away.

Vijay tumbled down the side of the building, landing face down in the street. The merc skidded to a halt, swinging around to aim his rifle at her. She fumbled for a grenade. The merc fired—

—but the drone got him first.

Jola was in so much pain she could hardly breathe. Lights flashing before her eyes, she focussed enough to see the human fumbling with their spear gun. Aiming it in her direction. Firing –

– when she was pulled out of harm’s way by her commander.

Write your own variation here.