By Marcia Thornton Jones

I love it when something clicks. That sudden flash of insight. The sense of ah-ha. It’s as if someone flipped a switch and aligned my brain’s railroad tracks. Unfortunately, those revelations don’t usually happen until after the adrenaline rush of a situation has subsided. Then, what could’ve been ah-ha revelations become what-I-shouldn’t-have-said regrets. I need to learn to pause in order to provide space and time for epiphanies to surface. To take deep breaths, count to ten, meditate, or just take a good look at myself in the mirror every so often.

            The same is true for my story characters.

James Scott Bell, in WRITE YOUR NOVEL FROM THE MIDDLE: A NEW APPROACH FOR PLOTTERS, PANTSERS AND EVERYONE IN BETWEEN, suggests plotting stories by using a character’s midpoint epiphany. A moment smack dab in the middle of the story during which the main character pauses to take a good long look at herself. When she considers the kind of person she is and the odds against her. Where she question whether she has what it takes to survive—or not. Bell calls this midpoint reflection the mirror moment, noting that it is different than the traditional definition of a midpoint plot event.

“Virtually all books on the craft approach it as another ‘plot’ point. Something external happens that changes the course of the story. But what I detect is a character point, something internal, which has the added benefit of bonding audience and character on a deeper level.”(page 25)

According to Bell, this single character epiphany creates a natural structure for outlining character transformation.

“Whether you are a plotter or pantser, just thinking about what the ‘look in the mirror’ might reveal will help you bring depth and cohesion to your novel.
“That’s why it’s a magic moment.
“And that’s a key word, moment. The true midpoint is not a scene. It’s a moment within a scene. It’s like the earth’s core. The true center. Find it in your novel, and everything will radiate from it.” (page 28)

Reading Bell’s gem of a book resulted in my own epiphany. By playing around with possible mirror moments using my character’s own words, I can get a better handle on her transformative growth. Once I know how she feels about herself in the midst of her struggle, I can not only develop scenes that lead to a satisfying conclusion, but I can also work backwards to strengthen the first half of the book.

If you’re interested in learning more about plotting using the mirror moment, I highly recommend reading Bell’s WRITE YOUR NOVEL FROM THE MIDDLE: A NEW APPROACH FOR PLOTTERS, PANTSERS AND EVERYONE IN BETWEEN. As for me, I plan to brainstorm mirror moment epiphanies for my character. And maybe practice a little meditation. And remembering to count to ten. Or at least try to take a deep breath before blurting something I’ll later regret!


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