Got two minutes? Then check out this week’s quick tip ~ Make sure you include a critical middle moment for your character…
Hello and welcome…I am a freelance editor and an editor for The Wild Rose Press, as well as an author. I often struggle with my own writing, and I have found that sometimes, a little reminder of ways to improve the process can be helpful, so, I like to share these moments of brilliance with others :). But, in this busy world of ours, who has time for pages and pages of writing tips? That’s why I’ve condensed mine down to quick flashes you can read in (approximately) two minutes. Enjoy…
Disclaimer: All of my tips are suggestions, and are only my opinion. And, for the most part, there are exceptions when going against my advice will make your story read better. Take what works, leave the rest.
This is not actually ‘my’ tip, it came from James Scott Bell from his fantastic book, Super Structure: The Key to Unleashing the Power of Story If you want to check out another of his writing books, he goes into more detail in: Write Your Novel From The Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between
Super Structure is probably the best book on plotting I’ve ever read (including my own… :)). While the process is technically the same as in most of the other plotting books, the way the steps are laid out in this one clicked for me and made it easier to understand and follow. Even if you are a pantser and not a plotter, this book is fantastic. It teaches you how to basically go from signpost to signpost (14 in all), to create a tighter, more richly in-depth story that will keep readers engaged. He even speaks specifically to pantsers and plotters, explaining how both camps can apply his advice.
One of the most interesting things I discovered was what Bell calls the “Mirror Moment.” It is a moment, almost always halfway through a book or movie, where the character figuratively looks himself or herself in the mirror and states/questions/discovers what they need to do, how they need to change, in order to reach their goal, to survive. Some examples he gave were in Casablanca, halfway through the film, after Rick is mean and hurtful to Ilsa and she walks out, Rick is full of self-disgust and basically asks himself the question: “What have I become? What kind of man am I?” At that point, he knows he must change in order to preserve his humanity. Another example; about halfway through The Fugitive, Richard Kimball is holed up in an apartment, surrounded by police, with nowhere to run. He realizes that he’s going to die, and he wonders how he ever thought he could survive such odds. It was his mirror moment. Why did I think I could do this? I’m doomed… As it turns out, the police are there for someone else, Kimball escapes, and he now knows he has to make something happen in order to survive.
Bell suggests writers figure out the Mirror Moment for their main character before they write the book. If you do that, you will know what point the character must reach in order to change, and writing all the events up to and after this realization should come more easily.
I decided to take a look at a few of my books and see if my main characters had a mirror moment. In Devil’s Promenade, the below appeared about halfway through. My MC (main character) is intent on debunking a supernatural phenomenon, the Spook Light (which is a ‘real’ phenomenon in Northeast Oklahoma), for a non-fiction book she’s writing. However, certain events unfold that make her realize she might be mistaken:
Packing a blanket, a sandwich, cookies, a Coleman lamp, and coffee, I took the golf cart out to the road and parked on the shoulder, next to a wire fence. Nervous anticipation filled me at the thought I might actually see the spook light tonight. And, I now believed it, completely. How could I write a book debunking something that I knew to be true? Jillian would be furious. On the other hand, maybe she would be satisfied with a book written from another perspective, a book about true paranormal sightings? Not likely. Jillian didn’t have a reputation for being flexible.
I did know that I could no longer write the book I had planned to write. If ghosts were real then I couldn’t deny this spook light could possibly be real. I would stay out here all night if I had to. I wasn’t sure how I would keep from freezing to death in the process, but I was going to give it a shot.
The blackness around me was broken only by the blinking of the cell tower lights ahead and the glow of moonlight. In spite of my coat and the blanket I’d wrapped around my shoulders, frigid air seeped through my skin all the way to my bones. From a distance came the low rumble of cars and a keening sound I was growing accustomed to. The possibility of coyotes no longer frightened me—at least not as much as it had in the beginning—but the haunted wail still sent a shiver through my body.
The second paragraph ‘shows’ that she’s changed, it shows her new realization, and that her goal has now changed as well. Although I wrote this before I read Bell’s book, I suppose that, instinctively, we sometimes realize that a Mirror Moment is an important factor for the mid-way point of a book. I got lucky and just happened to include one. 🙂 I checked a few of my other books and didn’t find that specific moment, but going forward, I plan to pin it down in the beginning and see if it makes a difference in how the story flows and whether or not it makes the book stronger.
Try this…take one of your books (or a few), and flip to the middle. See if your character has a Mirror Moment, then let me know in the comments what you find. Come on, it’ll be fun! 🙂
Until next time…Happy Writing!
Get your two-minute tips all in one handy reference guide:
(Click on the cover to be taken to the Amazon Buy Page)
*** If you would like to send me a few sample pages (around 7500 words or so, even though I will not edit that many on the blog. It just gives me more to choose from) for me to edit and share on an upcoming blog post, please do so in the body of an email to AliciaMDean@aol.com. Please use the subject line: “Blog Submission” This is for published or unpublished authors. In the email, please include whether you would like me to use your name or keep it anonymous, and whether or not you would like me to include any contact info or buy info for your books. Also, you can let me know if you would like for me to run my edits by you before posting on the blog. Please keep in mind, this is for samples to use for blog posts. I will not edit or use samples from all the submissions I receive, but I will use as many as possible.
How to write a novel? That is the question. There are probably as many answers to that question as there are people who ask it.
Wanting to write and actually doing it are two very different things. I am well acquainted with the sometimes grueling process of churning out a story. Over the years, I have tried many methods for creating and completing manuscripts, and have tweaked and honed it down to a workable (for me) process.
Using specific examples from one of my own novels, Without Mercy, I share my method in this mini how to book. The first eight steps actually deal with plotting while the last two are designed to help expand your outline into a well-developed draft. There is no one, perfect way to create a story, but there will be a method, or methods that work for you. I’m not sure if this is the one, but it works for me. Only you can decide if it also works for you. Fingers crossed that it does!
*** Warning – Please do not purchase without reading a sample. (This is solid advice for any book, fiction or non. If you are not intrigued in the sample, you will likely not enjoy the book)
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11 responses to “Tuesday Two-Minute Writing Tip – Does your Character Have a Mirror Moment?”
Wow! Interesting! I definitely have a mirror moment in my new release and there’s one for sure in the second book of that series. First book? Have to go back and check that one. Great tip and thanks.
Good for you!! You’re welcome…thank you!
This is a very interesting topic, Alicia. I hope some of your authors delve into their work to look for that Mirror Moment. Funny. I suppose I will never forger I. of D., I think I can remember a Mirror Moment in that old moldy ms. 🙂
Ahhh, yes. I remember it well. Every time I think of it, I’m sad that it never came to fruition. You just left all those unfortunate people suspended forever in a vacuum. I would love it if you dusted it off one of these days and actually finished it. Such a waste of talent! (Okay, I’ll stop lecturing now, I just really love your writing, if you recall…)
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Excellent post as always! I just realized that my heroes (it’s mainly my heroes who have a change of heart when they realize they were unjust to the heroine) usually have an inner dialogue of sorts and stare out of their window when they have their mirror moment. It’s something like “he wiped the steamed circle his sigh formed on the glass with the back of his sleeve” 😀
Reblogged this on Have You Heard? and commented:
An excellent blog post from Editor and Author Alicia Dean. If you’re going to follow a blog, I highly recommend following Alicia Dean’s blog.
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Oh I definitely have mirror moments in both of my books! Let me ask you this…Do you think it’s possible in a lengthy book to have more than one mirror moment? For instance, one in which the character changes his direction in life and sets on a new path, and another where his soul shifts and he realizes he has changed. Cuz I’m sure I have that in the Trouble with Tigers. (If I could put an emoji here, it would be the bug-eyed one)
Thanks for another awesome post!!
Hmmm…good question. Actually, I believe a book can only have one mirror moment as James Scott Bell defines it, although they can definitely have turning points and shifts in their beliefs and desires. I think the actual mirror moment goes along with the ‘sagging middle’ in that, if you have enough going in the middle of the book, and your character is in enough ‘trouble’ at that point in your book to where he realizes he (or she) must make a change that sets them on the course to their final transformation, then your middle will not sag. Does that make sense. LOL. Sorry you can’t insert emoji’s! You’re welcome, and thank you for stopping by!
My characters have had mirror moments, I just didn’t know they were called that. 🙂 I’ll have to get a copy of Bell’s book, Super Structure! Thanks!
Great tip. Thank you! Thanks for the book recommendation, too. It’s going on my TBR list.
Great tip as always! Thanks for sharing!