WHY have I gone two weeks without updating my blog? Shame on me! But not really shame on me because I was off at a writing seminar taught by James Scott Bell. I want to learn how to write really good books, you see, and that means I must occasionally tear myself away from the fun of writing and focus on the craft of writing.
And friends, I learned a lot. One of the concepts cited frequently was that of “sign post scenes.” These are the moments that recur, book after book, in much good fiction. Many writing instructors have a of list of them, or particular names for them–the inciting incident (JSB does not like term because every incident in a good book ought to incite somebody to do something, right?), the black moment, the point of no return.
I’m not much of a list maker, not much of a conscious book plotter, but one scene we discussed stood out: The Look in the Mirror. This is the point in the book where Our Hero and/or Heroine is barreling along, trying to mind their own business or save the world or stay drunk, when the Clever Author puts them in a situation where they must face what sort of person they’re becoming (or have become). They further face the fact that they have choices regarding whether that’s the sort of person they continue to be.
Interestingly, Mr. Bell noted that this scene is often dead center in the book. Michael Hague of Storymastery legend says what he finds at the dead center of the book is a scene he calls, “the point of no return.” By that point, the protagonist has gained enough insight to know the old self or life is lost to them forever, but they haven’t quite located the courage to commit to change.
And I’m sure every half-awake romance reader in the room is noting that around page 175 is usually when the relationship is fully consummated. This makes sense to me. What is an intimate moment, except a time when we’re forced to deal with who we are, who we really, truly, probably not entirely happily are?
And yet, I don’t think one scene of a character peering into the moral mirror will do for a solid romance. From my perspective, the function of the entire budding relationship is to give the character the courage and motivation to deal with their wounds, weaknesses, and flaws, and step by step, to change themselves if necessary to earn a life graced with true love.
What do YOU think? Have the books you’ve enjoyed had a light bulb scene in the middle of the book, or shown character growth over a progression of scenes? Both? Neither? Does any of this relate to real life?
To one commenter, I will give a SIGNED copy of Eloisa James’ lovely, “The Ugly Duchess,” which has a lot to tell us about change, growth, and true love.