Building Characters – The Moment of Truth

I’m still working on the series regarding building believable characters, using Jeff Gerke’s book  Plot vs. Character. If you’re getting bored, now would be  good time to visit my blog archives and dig into something different, because this is going to take a while. I’m in the midst of explaining the protagonist’s Inner Arc, or Journey, or what Jeff calls the Inner Journey. Step one was The Knot, or What’s Wrong With The Lead Character. Step Four is The Moment of Truth. For you math whizzes, you’ll notice that I’ve skipped Steps Two and Three. That’s the way Jeff does it in his book, so that’s the way I’m doing it here.

Jeff’s advise (and mine too, as I do it this way) is to start at the end of the story. If you know where you’re going, it’s much easier to plot the trip along the way. You plan a road trip that way, so why not a novel? Your entire story is a vehicle to transport the reader from page one to the moment of truth. In Lord of the Rings, Frodo’s moment of truth was when he stood on the edge of Mount Doom and saw the lava below. He had a decision to make. That *moment* when he deliberated was what the entire story pointed to. You don’t have to know what your character will decide–that can come later. But you have to know what that moment will look like.

Your character has a Knot, something making problems. She’s on Path A. Then a new path pops up: Path B. It looks tempting. But the old way is more comfortable. Which will she choose? Whichever path she chooses, she’ll learn more about herself and what’s at stake. Then Path C shows up. Then another Path. At each of these junctures, she begins to see just how poisonous her current way is. She understands both the promise and the price. She comes to truly understand her choice. 

Frodo could keep the ring, or he could toss it into the lava. Along the way, he had opportunities to use the ring or keep it in his pocket. Every time he used the ring, he regrets that he’s done so and has to pay the price. So when he stands on the edge of the lava flow, he has to make this final decision. 

It is at that moment, when your character’s last reason for staying the same has been knocked away and she must choose once and for all… that’s what you’re aiming for. That’s the reason you’re writing the story. That’s the moment of truth. 

I’ll continue this topic in the next post. Same bat time, same bat channel.


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