Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Your Protagonist's Divine Aha Moment Of Clarity

Why do readers really read stories?

Do they read just to kill time? Or maybe they read to escape their drab and dreary worlds? Perhaps, they read simply for entertainment?

Many people would answer one or all of these questions with a resounding yes.

But readers don't read simply for pleasure. They read for a much more important reason. Readers read to gather valuable and useful information that will help them navigate their lives.

The funny thing is, many readers aren't even aware that they're actually reading as a means of survival--but they are. Information about how to successfully make it through this crazy world we live in is as important to us as food and water. All of the necessary data are gathered from stories in the unconscious mind. Some psychologists refer to this region of the human mind the cognitive subconscious. In short, as Lisa Cron always says...

Readers read stories not to escape reality, but to navigate reality.

And one significant way that stories help readers navigate reality is by revealing the clear internal transformation of a conflicted protagonist. That's the short definition of story. At the beginning of a novel, the protagonist is a defeated person, with self-destructive hurts, habits and hang-ups. Then, through a series of dramatic circumstances, she internally transforms into a brave person, ready to take on life's difficult challenges. 

How does the reader know when the protagonist has transformed? When the reader's cognitive subconscious mind can clearly acknowledge that the protagonist has experienced her "Divine Aha Moment Of Clarity".

Divine moment of what?

Yes, the "Divine Aha Moment Of Clarity". This is the part of the story where the protagonist recognizes her specific longstanding misbelief for what it is--a crazy misbelief. She finally acknowledges that some crazy self-perception has needlessly wrecked her life for so many years. She discovers that her misbelief was a gigantic lie, believing something irrational like, "True love can only be found in fairy tales, but never in real life."

This is the part of the story where the heroine realizes that the hero she's been trying to get away from throughout the whole novel really does love her unconditionally. She realizes that he loves her with "true love".  Then, at the climax of the story, she pursues this same hero who's about to board a plane for London. She stops him at the TSA checkpoint, and kisses him in front of everyone in the terminal. She tells him what a fool she'd been and begs him to stay. She also believes in true love now--really.

Readers read stories to witness the miraculous internal transformation of compelling heroines--or heroes--over and over again. We simply can't get enough of it. By the very end of each tale, we love to vicariously experience a conflicted young man or woman gain freedom from his or her specific misbelief--time and time again.

We love seeing someone transform into a better person, and gain freedom from a self-destructive lie.

But here's the caveat: In order for the transformation to be satisfying to the reader, she needs to able to witness the internal transformation take place inside the heart and mind of the heroine. Actually, the reader needs to be inside of the heroine her when she experiences her "Divine Aha Moment of Clarity".

How does the reader experience something like that? 

That's depends on you. You, as the writer, must reveal every story-specific thought and emotion the protagonist has as she struggles to navigate every challenge the plot puts her through, in the moment, on the page. 

Revealing the inner thoughts of the protagonist at the exact "Divine Aha Moment of Clarity" is crucial to writing a novel that readers love. If you craft this phenomenon the right way in your story, your readers will write glowing Amazon reviews about your novel--and recommend it to all of their friends. 

Here's an example of the "Divine Aha Moment of Clarity" from my young adult novel, From Bad Girl To Worse. 

"There, in the Foxworth city jail cell, I stopped blaming myself for my parents' actions. I knew in my heart that they were to blame. Not me. For too long, I believed the lie that I destroyed the family by telling Dad to leave. I had accepted the lie that I destroyed the family by standing up to him. 
    But the truth was I had to stand up to Dad. Sending him away was the only way to save Mom's life. And mine. I will never again apologize to anyone, including myself, for what I did."

Some people refer to this life-changing moment simply as the "aha" moment. To me, this term doesn't pack enough punch. An "aha" moment is when you realize you left your keys in the door after you've hunted them for hours. Or, you suddenly remember that you have a twenty dollar bill tucked away in a secret compartment in your wallet, just as you're about to head for lunch.

I believe the terms "moment of clarity" and "touch from the Divine", coined by the late great screenwriter and creator of the Save The Cat! story paradigm, Blake Snyder describes the "Divine Aha Moment of Clarity" phenomenon so much more accurately. It's a huge thing for a protagonist to finally confront, overcome and defeat her longstanding misbelief. 

It's certainly a lot more monumental than finding your keys sticking in the front door lock, or a hidden twenty dollar bill in your wallet.

The "moment of clarity" comes when the protagonist realizes she no longer needs to believe a lie about herself that she's lived by for the better part of her life. She's no longer a slave to it. 

The heroine realizes she isn't ugly--she's beautiful both inside and out. The hero realizes he isn't weak--he's stronger than many people will ever dream of being.

In the case of From Bad Girl To Worse, my protagonist Sandra Porter believed the destructive lie that she couldn't do anything right. But in the end, she discovered that she did one crucial thing right--she did the right thing. She told the truth, even in light of suffering severe consequences by doing so. To her, that was more valuable than just doing something right.

She had a "moment of clarity" that led to her "touch from the Divine". The "touch from the Divine" was the fact that she found something she thought was lost forever--her self-respect. It was as if angels descended from Heaven and handed that self-respect to her on a pillow-sized cloud with a silver lining. It was truly a gift from God.

When you're in the development stage of your story, be sure to craft your protagonist's "moment of clarity" and "touch from the Divine" in such a way that your reader experiences these same moments with your protagonist. By doing so, you'll gain one satisfied reader. And another. And another.

'Til the next blog post,

L. R. Farren
Author of From Bad Girl To Worse 

P. S. - The "moment of clarity" your heroine experiences may be the realization that the coveted goal she'd been trying to achieve throughout the whole story would have actually done worse damage to her than her initial longstanding misbelief. She discovers that it was a good thing she didn't achieve her goal.

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