“The story more or less comes down to a moment when something changes forever. It can be a little thing or it can be a big thing, but something that somehow reverberates through somebody’s life in some ways.” ~Danielle Evans, author short-story collection Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, which recently won the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for a first book.
Last week I wrote about the fear that keeps me from the page – fear of failure, fear of committment, fear of the work itself. Sometimes part of that fear is just uncertainty about where to start. Maybe I’ve done the research, maybe I’ve amassed pages scribbled sentences or scenes, maybe I have characters to die for – and maybe I don’t know how to make sense of it all or where to begin.
In her interview on NPR, Danielle Evans talked about the “moment” she looks for in every story, the one that changes everything. It could be a “little thing or a big thing, but its something that reverberates through somebody’s life.” When she’s thinking about a story, she’s often thinking about “where is that moment,” and “how are the other elements of the story putting pressure on it?
Pivotal moments occur not only in fiction but in nonfiction too, particularly in memoir. There are game changing moments in every story, real or imagined. Back in my junior high school English literature class, we might have called it the “climax” of the story, the time when people react differently than you might have expected, when fate or circumstance forces them into new ways of feeling or behaving.
Finding that moment can be a way of jumping headfirst into a story or essay. Like being tossed overboard into the deep end of the pool, you must overcome your fear and start paddling like crazy.
Before you know it, you’re swimming.