Building Characters – The Moment of Truth, Part Two

Here we are, once again, working on building believable characters using Jeff Gerke’s book  Plot vs. Character. In the last post, I started discussing the Moment of Truth, which is Step Four in the protagonist’s Inner Journey. Look back if you need a refresher.

Jeff gives a bunch of examples from other works to help identify the Moment of Truth. I’ll offer a few of them here for your edification. If you want to see them all, purchase the book. It’s worth the price. 

1. Romeo stands in the tomb beside Juliet’s supposedly dead body. Now that she’s gone, what will he do?

2. Darth Vader, in Return of the Jedi, watches the Emperor killing Luke Skywalker with fancy finger lightning. Will Vader give his ultimate allegiance to the Emperor, or will he betray his master to save his son?

3. Elizabeth’s moment of truth in Pride and Prejudice comes when she realizes that Mr. Darcy, whom she’s snubbed, has saved her family from great shame and is an honorable man. He asks her to marry him. Will she?

These heroes fully understand what will probably happen if they step through Door #1 or choose Door #2. The choices are clearly laid out. The risks and consequences are understood. They must choose. 

Frodo’s knot is to use the power of the ring to serve his own interests. The cost would be the destruction of all he holds dear and the loss of his soul. The alternative, the “right” thing, is to deny himself the temptation of the ring and destroy it.  In every step he would be torn in opposing directions. To have the means of your salvation (and the salvation of everyone else in the world) as near as your pocket, yet refusing to use it for the greater good, that’s so mighty strong tension. 

Two desires pull at Frodo. The Black Riders use their psychic voodoo to urge Frodo to use the ring, because doing so will reveal his location to them. The ring wants to be found and taken back to its master, so it’s pulling at Frodo to put it on. Frodo feels the need to use the ring when he must be invisible to get free of danger (or free his friends from danger). That’s the pull to use the ring, and the temptation is overpowering. On the opposite side, all Frodo’s friends urge him NOT to use the ring, for his soul’s sake and everyone else’s life. It’s a powerful internal conflict and it propel’s Frodo’s inner journey all the way to the end of the story.

Your goal, as a writer, is to bring these two choices, these two options, together in one moment of choosing. 

This is getting long, so I’ll save the rest for next time. Hope you’ll come back for more.

-Sonja
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