The awesome moment always (or almost always) has an element of surprise. That means that the reader does not expect it. In writing, it also means that it usually makes sense once it happens.
So, the second part to the setup is managing expectations. Mostly this is leading the reader astray.
And, the worst you can do is telegraph the supposedly Awesome Moment. Here's Crichton up to his usual tricks.
Well, she thought, at least she had pictures. But when she turned back to the table, she saw that her camera was gone. (Jurassic Park)
This was no doubt an Awesome Moment in Crichton's head, and it's an Awesome Moment to me in the replay. But it fails during reading. And the biggest problem is that "But". Literally, the rest of the sentence isn't needed:
Well, she thought, at least she had pictures. But when she turned back to the table...
That second version would have been more awesome. But let's stick with the actual line.
The "but" absolutely has to go. The the setup has to be rewritten so that "Her camera was gone" can smoothly be the last sentence. Really, brevity is critical. Perhaps:
Well, she thought as she turned back to the table, at least she had pictures.
But her camera was gone.
I should note that Crichton did not skillfully set up what we need to know to appreciate this moment. Was it the loss of evidence? A sign of their desperation? It's not clear, however, how much this is needed here.
Isn't that kind of like a joke format?
Managing Expectations Example
Example from Dan Brown