on Fiction University:
The worst moment for your protagonist is one of the best moments for your reader.
A character who truly earns their victory—whatever that may be—is one readers will root for and remember. That’s often why they read the book in the first place. They want to watch a character struggle and overcome their problems and learn something from the experience.
Even if that something is, “the best weapon to put down zombies.”
Typically, the change is more character-focused and draws from the protagonist’s emotional core, but a Dark Night of the Soul happens in plot-heavy novels, too. It just takes a slightly different form and teaches slightly different lessons.
No matter what path your protagonist takes—emotional or intellectual, internal or external, plot driven or character driven—they have one thing in common.