Mirror Moments in Fiction: Does your story have one?

I’m currently reading James Scott Bell’s “Write Your Novel from the Middle,” which I can’t recommend highly enough. It has me looking at my current WIP from a whole different angle.

photo by Catie Rhodes, WANA Commons.

photo by Catie Rhodes, WANA Commons.

The basic premise is this: Bell states that every story needs a moment at the midpoint when the protagonist looks in the metaphorical mirror. It’s the moment when the character looks at himself and considers who he is becoming and what he’ll have to do to overcome the challenges of the story. Or when the protagonist acknowledges the odds she’s facing. Bell calls this the “look in the mirror” moment. Bell writes:

Virtually all books on 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.

As I revise one story and begin another, I’m keeping Bell’s words in mind. Thinking this way has forced me to look beyond plot points and identify that one magic moment, building the story around it and deepening the story. If you write fiction and haven’t read this book yet, I would recommend you check it out ASAP.

Midweek ROW80 check-in:

Writing:

  • Finish a second draft of my novella “Good Old-Fashioned Magic.” Revised one chapter. I still have some dialogue work to do in that chapter, but it’s mostly revised. Also made another attempt at a “blurb” for this manuscript.
  • Write a first draft of another novella. Wrote part of one scene in a notebook. Also created a very rough outline for this story.
  • Read a minimum of four books on the business or craft of writing. One of four books read. Continued reading “Write Your Novel from the Middle” by James Scott Bell.

Social media:

  • Check in on Twitter daily. Not met, though I have been checking in on Facebook.
  • Blog two times per week. On track.
  • Comment on three to five blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. Met for Tuesday, not for Monday.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

Can you identify the mirror moment in your story? What bit of writing advice changed the way you looked at your manuscript?

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20 thoughts on “Mirror Moments in Fiction: Does your story have one?

  1. I will have to get Mr. Bell’s book. It sounds very helpful. I know the mirror-moment in my WIP, but I think that I need to make it stronger, bolder. Know what I mean?

    Keep up the good work on your goals!

    • I highly recommend it. It definitely helped me with my WIP. I have a mirror moment, but I’m not sure it’s close enough to the middle of the story. I might have to do some rearranging of the scenes.

      Thanks for stopping by, Chris!

  2. Oh I’ll have to check that book out. I’m glad I can pinpoint the mirror moment in The Book but I hadn’t really thought about quite like that before.

    I’ve always outlined stories to within an inch of their lives and someone suggested I try to relax that a bit, and leave space to see where the story takes me. Best change I’ve made in my writing by a long way!

    • I used to be a full-out pantser, but my first drafts were an absolute mess. I’m coming from the opposite direction; I’ve learned to do some outlining before I begin so I have some idea of where the story is heading. Moving toward the middle–whether pantser of plotter–can help us grow as writers. I’m glad to hear you’ve found an approach that works for you.

      Thanks, Celine!

    • Yes. It seems like such a simple concept, but it’s a huge help when thinking about our books. It can be used at any stage, but I’m finding it most useful with a story I’ve just started. I’m putting more time in planning and making that mirror moment possible before I even set fingers to keyboard and get the story onto the page.

      Thanks, Kristen!

    • Me too. I like the triangle–the pre-story, the mirror moment, and the transformation. It’s helping me so much with the story I’ve just started. Bell’s book was a quick read, but super-helpful!

  3. All right – I’ve been putting it off, but I think I’ll be buying some of his books over the next months, as I move through the first revision pass of Chameleon’s Dish. I’ve got several more drafts awaiting revision, and more being created – and these books sound intriguing!

    Congratulations on the great progress – and Catie’s picture is a perfect complement to this post! =)

    • If you’re getting ready to revise, I would recommend Bell’s book “Revision and Self-Editing.” It totally saved me from drowning in the revision process.

      Thanks, Shan Jeniah. If you’re ever looking for pictures for your blog, the WANA Commons group on Flickr is fantastic. It’s all writers sharing their images for other writers to use on their blogs–as long as you credit the group and the photographer. There are lots of images to choose from, too.

      • Thanks, Denise! I bought it, and it’s waiting on my Kindle. Once I settle into the August routine, I’ll read it. I’m going through each scene individually, and not in sequence, first, using Rock Your Revisions. Then, before setting it aside for a while, I’ll be reading through and making notations for a sequential pass. I think this book will be perfect for that.

        If I like it, I’ll probably be adding other of his titles, too, over time.

        Isn’t WANA COMMONS amazing?! I’ve been contributing and using images there for over a year now. So many lovely photos! =)

      • I read Rock Your Revisions earlier this year and found it helpful. I hope you enjoy Bell’s book. All of his writing books are amazing–some of the best out there, in my opinion.

        I love WANA Commons. The quality of the images is amazing, much better than other free stock photo sites, and I like that I can trust the content.

  4. That sounds like a wonderful book to read. Even just the little bit that you summarized has me thinking about my WIP a little differently. Thanks! And good work on your goals.

  5. I’ve wanted to get James Scott Bell’s book since first hearing about it. I have and love Plot & Structure, so was pretty sure I’d like this one, too.

    I can see a mirror moment in the story I’m writing… even if I haven’t written it yet.

    • I loved it, and I’ve gotten a lot out of all of his books. “Revision and Self-Editing” and “Conflict and Suspense” were also great.

      It’s awesome that you’ve already identified the Mirror Moment in your story. That should make the writing process a lot easier!

      Thanks for commenting, Carrie!

  6. As for mirror moments, you’ve gotta be careful not to stray into cliche. I say this after hearing several manuscripts that started with the main character looking into the mirror. This was at the DFWcon Gong Show, where a panel of editors and agents listen to the first page of a novel and then hit the gong when they would have stopped reading.

    They unanimously said opening with your character looking in the mirror was a cliche they saw daily. I won’t even mention the groans!

    Does Bell address this? Since he’s suggesting the mirror moment at the midpoint, I’m betting he has thought this all through.

    I haven’t read Bell’s book, but you’ve intrigued me!

    • It’s not so much about looking in the mirror as it is taking a moment to reflect on the circumstances of the plot and figure out where he/she stands, asking questions like “Who do I need to be to overcome the obstacles I face? Who am I now?” So there’s no literal mirror needed–it’s more of a metaphor for a point at which the character turns inward for reflection.

      Bell’s book definitely helped me with my writing, so if you’re writing fiction, I hope you check it out. 🙂

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