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Monday, 5 September 2011

The Pivotal Point

Last week I awoke from a hectic dream where I was the central character at a moment of high drama. I was aware that the world was fully formed in the background and the moment of the dream was a wonderful plot twist where the villain tried to destroy me but instead empowered me. There were four basic facts I needed to remember and I repeated them over and over in the hope that I would still remember them when I woke in the morning. Fortunately it worked.

As I re-imagined that scene from my dream, I realised that it was the key pivotal point in a much greater story. I could very easily trace backwards in time and see the steps that had to have occurred in order for me to arrive at that moment, indeed the pivotal moment practically dictated the starting point. I realised too that the rest of the story was simply playing out the inevitable consequences of that pivotal moment. I sat down for an hour and, seven pages later, I had mapped out the entire plot line for a high fantasy novel. The pivotal moment is not the climax, indeed it may not even be at a moment of crisis, neither is it just one of the key moments which joins a novel together like a dot to dot puzzle. It is the point to which the characters move from the beginning and from which the characters travel to the end.

For me the pivotal moment of JRR Tolkein's "Lord of the Rings" was Frodo saying "I will take the ring to Mordor, though I do not know the way" Up to that moment the characters had been fleeing from a half understood evil, and were driven towards Rivendell. The rest of the novel related the consequences of that decision for each of the fellowship. Here the pivotal moment was comparatively early in the novel, but the pivotal moment could just as easily be nearer the end

Take an entirely different genre, say Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice". For me the pivotal moment was not Elizabeth's visit to Pemberley, even though that was arguably the point at which Elizabeth's feelings changed from contempt to admiration, it was, I believe, the moment when Darcy declared Elizabeth to be "handsome" after she and the Gardiners had dined at Pemberly. Up to that point the characters words and actions had been controlled by their pride and prejudice, but this was the point after which the characters actions are controlled by their hearts rather than their heads and the story unfolds as a natural consequence of this.

Can you identify a pivotal moment in your favourite book. Can you identify one in your own book?


  1. I think I can identify the pivotal moment in my first book...

  2. When you mentioned the point where the characters travel to the end, a particular scene in my current WIP came to mind; which I'm just about to write, in fact. :)

    Great post!

  3. First what a dream to have inspired you! Yay!! I wish I could have dreams like yours too!!

    Second - pivotal points - I think I have many in my current wip!

    Take care

  4. I'm so envious of your dream! I've been journaling my dreams in the hope of seeing a pattern or symbol that might inspire me; surely my subconscious has some relevant tidbit for me! Unfortunately, so far, nothing tangible. Maybe one of these days . . .

  5. Fascinating! I had a story come to me in a dream. It's only happened once, but it became a core part of a new fantasy story which may become an epic, and will be my next project. It isn't, however, the pivotal point. It's more of a backstory thread which has big consequences in the story. The pivotal point comes near the beginning of the story, but I won't give it away yet :-)

  6. Pivotal point in my book is where MC makes a decision to follow Christ.
    Oh, by the way...I am tagging you. Go to my site to see what to do. Good to see your name again.

  7. Yes, I can think of the pivotal moments! And so cool you have such vivid dreams. I love when I have a dream like a story.


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