|"Moon and trees 3" by Subtitled. Available free at sxc.hu|
If your genre requires a mass slaughter of the cast -- horror, darker thriller/action stories, etc. -- then the crisis is also something of a fake-out because the question of "Will this work out?" still has its answer. The answer is no.
Since it's easier to point out how things go wrong, some more things to worry about in your plotting:
We've all seen stories where the conflict was based on something that five minutes of real conversation could have cleared up. In a similar vein, sometimes the crisis is invoked by the characters suddenly turning into idiots and misunderstanding, getting angry for poorly defined reasons, or suddenly clamming up. This makes for a less than convincing "dark night of the soul" because, again, five minutes could clear it up.
Another situation where this happens is when the writer forgets/overlooks an obvious solution to the supposedly traumatic problem. For example, let me pick on Prometheus for a moment since I've kept mum on my opinions... at one point, Dr. Boyfriend stood there insisting he be set on fire to protect the crew. He could have just taken his helmet off and suffocated in the atmosphere. And then been burned, once dead. But no, we have to go with the horribleness of someone burning to death.
On the other hand, sometimes the crisis is a result of completely legitimate character conflicts. Then, the problem is getting the relationship back on track without invoking the modern reader's gag reflex.
- Woman deciding she loves this asshole because... well, if he's an asshole, no excuse will do.
- Guy deciding he loves this bitch because... oh, come on, she's a bitch. Again, no excuse will do.
- The leopard changes his spots at will. This is something that must be earned over the course of the story. It can't be pulled out of a hat. Seriously, did anybody believe that Danny's switcheroo at the end of Grease was going to stick? Or Sandy's, for that matter?
- Invoke serendipity, which means the characters didn't earn their success.
- Call in the cavalry at the last moment, which the characters might have earned but it's still not their win.
- Make an otherwise competent enemy screw up and ruin himself, which the characters didn't earn.
Which of these annoys you the most when you see it in a movie or a book?