Monday, February 7, 2011

The Big “Nooo!” Moment

The Big “Nooo!” Moment

khanFirst, a quick word about my last post. After carefully reading the responses, I realized I may have made some generalities about readers’ expectations about why they read fiction. I think their point is well-taken: be careful when blogging to not make assumptions. However, I also feel that you should be unafraid to make strong points, because it leads to interesting discussion.

Now on to today’s topic. We’ve all seen it. It’s been parodied to death, yet many books and movies still use this tried-and-true method. Something happens that the character cannot control, eliciting the proverbial “Nooo!” or some variation. Darth Vader kills Obi-wan, and Luke says “Nooo!” and is dragged away. Frodo sees Gandalf die. “Nooo!” Sarah Connor first sees the Terminator (in Terminator 2). “Nooo!” Captain James Kirk’s “Khaaan!” counts, by the way.

Called the “Big No” trope,  it clearly signals an important turning point in the story. It’s a moment when the Bad Guy has his victory, when everything falls apart for the Hero. There’s only one thing left for the Hero to do: scream. But this “Nooo!” is more than just an outcry. It’s the Hero’s sudden recognition that not only is he facing physical harm and mental distress, it is that he is also facing the greatest enemy of all—Death. The stakes have been raised to their utmost.

Now when writing an adventure story like I have, I always had a couple “Nooo!” moments in mind. Especially writing Steampunk, there is one aspect that lends itself nicely to this: Airships. Airships are disasters waiting to happen. The Hindenburg proved that. But there are other dangers, one of which speaks to one of our basic fears: falling. And what happens when you combine an airship with falling? A “Nooo!” moment.

His hand slammed across Sophia’s face, a blast of pain that threw her to the deck. Viola shrieked and charged at him with clawed hands. He stepped aside and slammed the back of her head with the pistol. Viola stumbled, hit the railing, and flipped over with a scream, disappearing into the night.

“VIOLA!” Sophia jumped to the rail. “VIOLA! VIOLA!” No answer. She turned back.

Dunstan stood stricken. “No, no, nononononono.” He dropped to his knees, mouth agape.
– excerpt from Steam Palace 

What’s your favorite “Nooo!” Moment, from either your own work or popular movies/ fiction?


  1. I call this the "Oh shit!" moment in When Prey Hunts. *spoiler warning* (since I know you're reading it). :) Unlike a "Nooo!" moment, it's not clear what has been lost, but it can't be good. So it's more of an "Oh shit, what terrible thing is going to result from what just happened?"

    It's the moment when Ramon visits the Faerie Trauma Support Group to spy on the fae hunters. Jina has no idea why he's there -- maybe her lover, the elf Jett, is hurting him? Is Jett dangerous after all?

    But then his purpose is revealed through veiled language that only Jina understands. Here's an abridged snippet:

    "Hi, my name is Ramon." He looked up and locked eyes with her. His voice sounded both hostile and hurt at the same time. "I have a fear that every night, faeries are /hunting/ me in my own home. And today, I realized it was true."

    Then he stood up and walked out, slamming the door behind him.

    He may as well have kicked her in the stomach. She felt sick and dizzy as the pieces started falling into place.

    "What the hell was that all about?" Gretel asked.

    "I'm not sure, Gret."

    "You know that guy."

    "Yeah, I've met him in my art circles, Jina replied.

    "And you are now visibly shaken. What did he mean, about hunting?"

    Jina felt sicker by the minute. Ramon's message couldn't be any clearer. Somehow Jett knew what this group was up to, and she'd sent Ramon to find out who was running it.

    "I have no idea what he was talking about. Maybe he was on shrooms."

    Once she got a moment to herself, she texted Jett: /Don't make any assumptions. Please give me a chance to explain. I love you./

    Somehow she had a feeling it wasn't going to make any difference.

  2. The strongest "Nooo" ever seen - When in the Godfather The daughter gets shot on the steps of the church. Al Pacino screams out a Nooo from the depth of his soul. That Nooo is noticed by all movie critics. a turning point in the series.

  3. I kill my darlings. Literally. I take the character I have a crush on, or the one I want to be with forever, and I kill them. That way the author gets to scream "NOOOOO" at the same time, each and every time I read or revise it.

  4. I know this is silly, but the first Charlie's Angles movie, the actor boyfriend (played by the guy from 'Friends') shouts "Damn you, Salazar!" with such a level of campy melodrama. I love it. I occasionally shout it. It's not a "Noooo!" but in the same vein.

    BTW, you have an award at:

  5. I can only think of one "Nooo" moment of the top of my head, and the character doesn't even scream "Noo". I guess it's like the "Khaaaan" moment.

    Book: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The situation: Hagrid has just been exposed for sneaking some horrible monster into Hogwarts, thus he's carted away to Azkaban. Harry witnessing the scene, helplessly reaches towards Hagrid and screams his name.

    I don't know if it's a favorite, but it's definitely a moment in the story where Harry loses something very dear to him. By the way, hi! I just stumbled across your blog and I really dig it.

    I saw that you have an announcement page on upcoming blogfests, and I'm actually hosting one at my blog:
    The Now Starring... Blogfest!

  6. @Luna: Definitely a pinch point. Noooo! is more like when something is ripped away from you. Thanks for the snippet!

    @בערי: For some reason I've never watch the Godfather trilogy...I'll have to put it on Netflix!

    @Sophia: You do know my main character in Steam Palace is Sophia, right? I do kill my favorite character Viola as I posted up above. Not sure I'd want to be with her. But is Viola really dead? ;)

    @Spock: Thanks very much! Will be over to check it out.

    @Lindz: Thanks for the example. I'll add your blogfest to the list! (I've been pretty bad updating it).


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