You had such great feedback on the last blogpost regarding plotting and, yes, James Scott Bell’s Mirror Moment, writing your story from the middle concept, I wanted to explore a little deeper, take you with me. In this writer’s opinion, finding the mirror moment in fantasy, suspense and novels with high physical stakes (war, crime, etc.) is relatively easy to locate, depending on the author’s style. Hopefully, you saw the clear moment in the example I gave from Suzanne Collins’ young adult novel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. If not, you can read that blog post here.
But what about the emotionally-charged romance novel? Sure, there are physical events happening. Dusty road shootouts in the Old West, gladiators fighting to the death in a Roman arena or, if you love a good billionaire story, intense meetings in high-rise conference rooms. But the marrow of the romance novel is almost always wrapped up in a big pile of human emotions. Character-driven stories that make you question whether love will win out and end in a (hopefully) satisfying happily-ever-after.
For this project, I decided to look back on the contemporary romance I released in the Summer of 2021: Jump then Fall. JTF is written in first person, past perfect, and solely in the point of view of heroine Harper Evans, save for one chapter. Harper’s eighteen, freshly-graduated valedictorian of her class, and spending a summer in Nashville, Tennessee before she flies overseas to start university. She works shelving books at the local community college, where her father teaches. One night, she’s invited to an intimate jam session, and she meets country music star Lawson Hill. I probably don’t have to keep going with details for you to conclude sparks fly between these two and tension ensues. Lawson’s famous. Harper’s on a ticking clock. How could this possibly work as anything more than a summer fling?
Every time I open this story, I fall in love with it all over again. For a handful of my younger years, I toured festivals with a bluegrass band. They were–are a talented group of musicians and, man, we had a blast. In a way, I knew I’d one day write a story about a musician wrapped up in his own artistry. I found the middle of the book (Chapter 16) and started reading. For this example, and for the sake of setting the scene (an awards show in Las Vegas), I’m giving you a bit more before and after, highlighting the mirror moment.
THE REVERB OF HIS GUITAR pulsed in my chest. Fans and guests clapped, whistled and hollered. Lawson walked up to the microphone to his drummer’s intro and the other guys in the band joined in, already in their places. He smiled, and the room’s energy spiked faster than a thermometer thrust into boiling water.
He’d removed his jacket and tie, rolled up his sleeves, unbuttoned his shirt halfway down his chest. The textbook image of a hot country star.
The song wasn’t one I’d heard from him before. Not online or via music app, nor the many times I’d watched him practice at home, whether by himself or with his band. The crowd listened, speechless, enthralled. This was new. New to me, new to them. Lyrics poured from his mouth, a smooth-as-silk melody about two people in a secret relationship.
A whirlwind encounter, shared smiles, heated touches.
Moving too fast, but it feels so right, so good, baby, baby you’re driving me crazy.
Emotion speared me in the gut, then spiraled like a beanstalk up, up, up into my neck and face. Had he written a song about us? It was almost too much to process. Especially right there in the middle of a crowded theater, chockful of celebrities and screaming fans. The harmonies were beautiful. The kind that sunk in, demand pause and appreciation. His lyrics read like a diary, an account of our time together.
Or maybe just some random guy’s time with some random girl, I told myself. Because the possibility existed that I was hallucinating. That I’d created a beautiful, vivid fiction in my own mind. One I did not want to let go of anytime soon. It was too precious, too exciting.
One significant truth stood out among all others—and there were many.
He was taking hold of me, this man.
He’d planted himself inside, rooted me into his world, and there was no going back. When he sang, my heart sang with him. When he strummed his guitar—he’d chosen his vintage white Fender Stratocaster—the blood in my veins caught fire.
Two verses and a final chorus and he broke into a guitar solo that garnered more whistles, more whoops and calls. The drums picked up. He moved up the catwalk and the fans lost their minds. Within seconds, everyone was on their feet, clapping to the beat, cheering him on.
Katie had instructed me to smile until my face hurt. I hadn’t realized just how involuntary that task would be.
I’d never smiled so wide in my life.
This is the pivotal moment Harper realizes she’s in big trouble, emotionally, because she has fallen hard and fast for a man she believes she must inevitably leave. Lawson has upended personal ambitions and for Harper, who has spent her whole life doing everything by the book, this is a significant, emotionally terrifying appreciation.
I encourage you to pull your top three favorite books off your shelf and mark the mirror moment in each. Do the same for the stories on your e-reader; the highlighter and bookmark tools are fantastic for this purpose. Think about your own story — where is that pivotal moment? The moment the main character looks in the mirror and asks himself, “What have I become?” It really is a valuable skill to hold in your writer’s toolbox, one that will strengthen your story and keep your readers engaged.
Please comment below if you’re interested in more examples of mirror moments (film, perhaps?) or if there are other areas of writing and plotting you’d like us to explore.
Wishing all of you a great weekend and upcoming week. Happy creating!
xoxo – Alyssia