Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Starry, Starry Night and the Road to Damascus

The drive over to Durham on Monday was a bit gruelling, to say the least.

I'd left work late, as I needed to wait for a colleague's opinion on a piece of work, and she didn't get out of meetings till gone six. After I'd polished the report and sent it out, I didn't get away from the office until 7ish. By then, it had been below freezing for several hours, dark for two hours, and in thick fog since the sun went down.

Driving slowly through the ice and fog, counting the cat's eyes for company, was a bit too much like hard work. After the first hour or so, you start thinking how nice it would be to be able to blink.

The road winds higher, the vehicles sightings become fewer and more infrequent. You phone a couple of friends on the hands-free, but then the fog thickens and even that is too much distraction. It's just you, the night, the cold and the white.

And then, on the bleakest stretch of that bleak road, I burst out of the fog, and saw the stars.

The clearest night I've ever known. The blackness of the sky and the brightness of the stars was overwhelming, breathtaking, humbling. Up there, on the spine of the Pennines, it's a long way from the sickly orange glow of light pollution, and the night sky is there for the taking.

Cold or no cold, late or not late, I pulled over and parked, and leaned back with my head on the roof of the car and looked.

Stars bright and clear and shining. The sweep of the Milky Way so crowded and so complex, looking at it gave me vertigo and I felt like I was falling into all those stars, all those worlds. Orion striding across space, hunting his quarry. The flash of a plane, cruising in the jet stream far above. The furtive silver glimmer of a satellite, the mayfly burn of an ephemeral shooting star.

My breath on the air, the frost on the grass, and my fingers turning blue.

So perfect, it was worth driving through the fog, because the contrast gave the sight a powerful joy.

So, while I sniff back tears of remembrance, let's relate this to writing.

*g* You didn't see that coming, did you?

If we're writing characters who change, learn, grow, then there's usually a moment of breakthrough, a revelation that turns the way they see things (usually for us romance writers, they way they see themselves, their lover, and their relationship) on its head. Far too often I see (in both published and unpublished books) too little made of that shining moment, too often it's almost brushed under the carpet, a poor relation to the black moment, a breath of a pause before the resolution.

Please, give your characters their shining, blinding breakthrough. Let it stop them in their tracks, taking their breath.

That doesn't mean their moment of realisation has to come attached to speeding truck - it doesn't have to be life-or-death to be life-changing. They can find their epiphany in a bowl of soup, if that's how it takes them.

But have that moment thrill their soul. Have it fill them with light till it bursts from their fingers like Princess Fiona's transformation in Shrek. Think big, think wonder, think awe.

No reader should be able to miss your character's Road to Damascus revelation just because they skipped a paragraph. Or sneezed.

Let them burst through the fog with your characters, and glory in the sight of all those gleaming stars.

(Sometimes I just like coming up with blog post titles that are going to make you go, "huh?")


At 1:21 pm, Blogger Sela Carsen said...

Never, ever quit, Anna. You're damn good at this.

At 1:27 pm, Blogger Anna Lucia said...

You know, I think I am. *g* (Damn good, that is, not quitting *wink*)

At 4:48 pm, Blogger Rae said...

We know you are. What a beautiful way of putting things. Thanks for this post, I needed it today as I rewrite dreck and try to turn it into something sparkly and shiny.


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