My daughters, who are horror fans, watched The Open House this week, and they hated it. Can you guess why?
I’ll save you the trouble. The storytelling was weak. The writers failed at story structure, and the fans were not happy. Currently, it has a rating of just 14% on Rotten Tomatoes.
You never want your reader to scratch their heads or worse, to throw your book across the room, when they reach the end. To help you avoid this fate, I am assigning homework. You knew it would happen eventually. That day has come.
James Scott Bell, through his books on the writing craft, has been my writing mentor. There is not another writer about writing who has taught me more, and that is saying something.
In 2014, Bell wrote a short book, Write Your Novel From The Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between, that I continue to reread and reference whenever I get stuck. (Not an affiliate link.) It has a long title, but the paperback edition is only ninety-four pages. We will refer to it as Mirror Moment, for short.
Your homework is to buy this book and read it. The Kindle edition is only $3.99.
While you read “Mirror Moment,” watch for the following points:
“At any stage of your writing you can ask yourself what the Mirror Moment in your story might be. You can play with it. You can brainstorm. Is it a transformational moment? Is it about facing the toughest odds? What’s going on inside your character? What do you want there to be going on? This is the apex of what I call The Golden Triangle. This is the most crucial thing to know, because this is what your story is really all about.”
Bell, James Scott. Write Your Novel From The Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between (p. 29). Compendium Press. Kindle Edition. ”
Bell gives many great illustrations in his book, but let me supply one from recent popular culture.
Spoiler Alert In The Last Jedi, there is a literal mirror moment.
In the first movie and through most of the second movie in the latest Star Wars trilogy, Rey searches for who she is. Who are her parents? How did she wind up as an orphaned scavenger on a desert planet? Most importantly, why does she have such a powerful connection to the Force?
In The Force Awakens, Rey glimpses her past. If you blink, you miss her vision of the moment she is stranded on Jakku as a very young child. As a young adult, Rey is convinced her parents will return for her someday, and she counts the days of her exile by keeping score on the wall of her abode. When she gets caught up in saving the droid (those pesky droids), she is reluctant to leave Jakku for fear she will miss reuniting with her family.
To the outside observer, it’s apparent that Rey has pinned her hopes on wishful thinking. But she doesn’t see things that way and continues her search for identity in The Last Jedi.
Finally, in the midst of her training with Luke and a few intense moments with Kylo Ren, Rey seeks answers in a very dark place, the cave of mirrors.
In the cave, she faces her greatest fear. Instead of seeing her parents, as she had hoped, she sees infinite versions of herself in the mirror, both ahead of her and behind her. This is when she realizes that she is alone. She is alone with herself, if you will. It’s up to her. She must decide what to do next.
I believe she finally puts aside her childhood wishes and decides to take on her future as an adult. She doesn’t mature in a heartbeat—far from it—but she is ready for her transformation.
Unless you’re a Hollywood director, be careful about using an actual mirror to make your point. The mirror moment is simply when truth triumphs. Or not.
Also, mirror moments do not always lead to a happy ending or a positive transformation.
For today, we will assume the ending is going to be positive. Your character will look inside himself and wonder what kind of person he is. What does he believe? Has he believed a lie? What is he willing to sacrifice? The stakes need to be death—physical, social, emotional, professional, or political death. And then, he wins out.
That’s all for today. Go do your homework.
What is your favorite mirror moment in a book or in a movie?