Defining Moments

Characters have to have a defining moment, right? This doesn't just go for YA, it goes for everything.  It's that moment when they (and the reader) suddenly know the type of person the character is.

Defining moments can happen at any time in a book and chances are there will be more than one.  Let's say there's one that gets the story in motion, one when the character comes to a momentous realisation in the middle that twists everything and that really awesome one in the final act when the character becomes the person who will always be remembered.

In my favourite book of all time ever, Philip Pullman's Northern Lights, I love the scene at the party when Lyra realises she has to run away from Mrs Coulter. In that one moment, Lyra has a defining moment because we know how determined, independent and strong she is. She makes up her own mind and takes charge of her own destiny (wellll... so it would seem ;) Spoilers!)

Here's one of my other favourite defining moments:


In that single moment, we see Jim make up his mind. No more wasting his life - it's time to join Starfleet and be AWESOME. Four years? He'll do it in three.

I just love it when a single sentence or a few seconds of screen time show us exactly the kind of character we're meeting.  And this doesn't just go for your main character.  Your supporting characters probably have a few defining moments of their own too.

Oooh, but don't think they always have to be moments of happiness.  Maybe your character suffers a terrible loss or a massive personality weakness gets them in trouble.  Perhaps they betray someone or discover their own cowardice.  Sometimes, characters are motivated by devastation rather than determination. 

Share some of your favourite defining moments - those you've read/seen or those you've written!

Comments

  1. Of course: "You're a wizard, Harry!"

    An example of terrible loss defining a person's future: Luke Skywalker returning home, having just turned down Ben's offer to train as a Jedi, to find his aunt and uncle dead.

    Good article, Cole. :)

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    1. Thanks, Colin!

      Oh, we'd be here forever if we sat here and went through the most iconic defining moments ;) But it would be sooooo much fun!

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  2. There are probably tons I could list, but the one that readily sprang to mind was Katniss in THE HUNGER GAMES and that split second decision she makes to take Prim's place. Talk about a defining moment! I could say more--like what this eventually leads to--but I want to avoid spoilers. ;)

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    1. Ooooh good one! Yeah, I wanted to talk about a different defining moment in Northern Lights but it's at the end of the book and a massive spoiler ;)

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  3. I loved Tris' faction decision in the first Divergent book. She'd been indecisive from the beginning and then she had to make her choice. Stay or leave her family?

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    1. I'm enjoying reading other people's favourite defining moments ^_^

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  4. These are great examples! And I literally just edited a scene that relies on this exact moment for my WIP. ;)

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