Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Writing 101: The Epiphany

It is not uncommon for literary characters to make mistakes. Sometimes, they will even commit some wrong. But the worst characters can be redeemed, or gain sudden insight, with a simple literary technique: the epiphany. 

Come to Jesus

The epiphany, also known as the come-to-Jesus moment, gives your character sudden clarity. They realize something they did not before, and in this fashion find redemption or otherwise advance their plot. The epiphany is used a lot in literature. It happens a lot less frequently in reality.

Sudden insight is marvelous, but it's as rare for most people as being struck by lightning. For most people, insight is only achieved through dialogue with someone else. Less commonly, it's found through reading or watching TV or some other non-interactive entertainment. But sometimes, our own thoughts do finally align and suddenly, there is reason and logic inside one's own mind. Epiphany. Realization has been gained, and out of nowhere, too.

If you're going to write it, make it feel real. The only way to really do this is to take readers,step-by step, through the character's thought process. Readers want to understand how this sudden insight has been reached. Show them. Guide them through your character's mind, and show how clarity has been obtained.

Epiphany is not something that all people experience. But if you write it well enough, they'll feel as though they have.

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