Small moments in our lives have compounding affects after one altering choice. Last summer, some random, late night, I decided to apply to a Master’s Program in Business. What I expected was an email a week or so later explaining what process I needed to go through to be admitted into the program. Instead, I was asked when I wanted to start. Since then, I’ve gone through a lot of stress and other learning activities. I will be looking at a completed degree and a lot more confidence and opportunities before the end of this year.
A late night decision altered the course of my life. I know that everyone has at least one altering choice in their lives. Some of them may make great, inspiring stories. Others may be a powerful lesson for others. Either way, I think it’s important to recognize them. Though, they may not always seem significant at the time.
In every plot and every story there is an initial, altering choice that brings about the rest of the story. This is a moment that will take place fairly early in your story map, the beginning, in fact. A “big bad thing” or a “call to adventure” occurs and the main character chooses to answer it, otherwise, there wouldn’t be a story.
An example that comes to my mind is in the first Lord of the Rings movie. Frodo Baggins agrees to to deliver a ring to an Elvin city, and three of his friends decide to go with him. Mostly, it was just an errand and an interesting adventure. However, because that choice was made, Frodo saw the contention of the other races that led him to making another choice: to take the ring to the one place it could be destroyed. His friends go with, and each of their lives are severely altered as a result.
Either in your planning process or writing, whatever order you do your development, find the altering choice. That moment can be either have a presence, or it may seem to happen without any thought at all. Make sure that you can identify that choice, it does need to be a choice of the character, and try writing it in different ways.
The moment can be a huge revelation in who your character is, the reason, the manner, everything about that choice. In the case of Lord of the Rings, Frodo was willing to help a friend, but concerned about leaving home. That innocence and goodness is challenged and altered throughout the trilogy. A character that makes the choice grudgingly, is revealing his/her personality and characteristics. Experiment with ways to portray the initial decision, and keep in mind, that this will likely point to the theme of your story.