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Wednesday, 26 August 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 33: “Epiphany saves the story”

There are many great moments an author can experience when working on a project. Writing THE END once a 1st draft is complete. Holding a physical copy of your book in your hands for the first time. Getting a positive review from a stranger.

But there’s one great moment that can occur early on in the process which, for some authors (and more importantly the stories they’re trying to construct) can be pivotal to the whole project.

The epiphany.

Not all authors will experience this wonder, and not all stories will require it. But for those that have found a project saved when a light bulb suddenly illuminates a solution, it can feel like the greatest weight has been lifted.

I recently had one of these moments and the best way to describe it is that I felt like I’d won the greatest prize ever. The wife and I had just gone to bed (if you’re reading this mum; separate beds, separate rooms) and, as most often happens when my head hits the pillow, I forget about all the crap of the day and just focus on whatever project I’m currently forging through.

At the moment, my WIP is giving me problems with its final act and I’ve recently spent a lot of my brain power trying to figure it out. The villain of the piece is weak, but the real issue has been how his master plan can draw the heroes in without getting out of control too soon. I need a good reason for him to take it slowly.

So I lay there, and I lay there, and I lay there, juggling the problem over and over while playing back scenes from the 1st draft in my head, like the dailies for a movie.

I relaxed.

I pictured the villain. I pictured the title. The villain. The title. Villain. Title.

I felt the edge of sleep calling . . .

DING!

Now, while you can’t control an epiphany, while you can never request it or command it, there are things you can do to help it along. Sometimes it can click when your project is the furthest thing from you mind. You can suddenly see something or hear something and it falls into you story like the missing building block or puzzle piece that it needs.

I had this once with a project that I couldn’t get a decent first chapter for. It was a sequel to a story that had a happy ending, but the second books beginning felt slow. Then one day, I’m doing the washing up while listening to some TWO STEPS FROM HELL on the old i-pod when - BAM! - there’s my intro. And the project itself was something I’d put down years ago and wasn’t even thinking about. Somehow the mood of the music just created images in my head that slowly involved characters I’d been ignoring.

For my current project, it was a little more forced because I was playing with the story in my head. But I wasn’t stressing. I wasn’t annoyed. I wasn’t banging my head against a brick wall. Instead, I was just daydreaming about it, like I’d been doing all week while stuck on my sofa, ill, and watching crappy daytime television (although I did fit in a viewing of the fantastic LAPUTA: CASTLE IN THE SKY). Obviously this week of sickness (I had it bad, but my son had it far, far worse) means I’m further behind than I’d like to be on the 2nd draft of CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE RISING DEAD, but the epiphany has coincided with my return to health so now it’s full steam ahead.

To anyone out there struggling with a major plot point, a clever twist, or a bombastic ending, I hope you get your epiphany soon. Just remember; don’t go looking for it, because it will find you.

See you in seven.

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