Building Your Characters from the Inside – Part 4: Epiphany

by Susan May Warren

By now, you should have figured out how to make your character suffer, and what his Black Moment is going to look like (and if not, that’s okay – just go and reads parts 1-3 at these links: Part 1:Values, Part 2:Conflict, and Part 3:Black Moment). Today, we’re going to talk EPIPHANY.

What is Epiphany? It’s the moment, right at the darkest in the plot when the character wakes up to the truth that has been dogging him the entire book and goes, AHA! (Accompanied by a little hand-to-head thump).

It’s the moment when they figure it out, or perhaps the moment when they reach DEEP INSIDE to gather up the strength – physical or emotional that they didn’t know they had, to complete the task.

How do we find that? 


Hint #4: Give the Character a new look on life

Start by asking your Character: Where do you belong?

HUH?
Listen, we all belong to different groups in society…whether we want to or not. For example…when I watch television, I gravitate toward the Home/Garden channel, What not to Wear and Alias reruns. Because I want to be a woman with a beautiful home, the right appearance and a strong, adventurous life. We put ourselves in the groups we want to belong to…not the real groups in which we actually belong. I wouldn’t willingly put myself in the harried homeschool mom group, although that is sometimes my reality. Nor the “Sometimes I wear my pajamas until noon” group, although…again, that happens often enough for me to have legitimate membership. My handyman Joe, from my book Happily Ever After, doesn’t want to acknowledge that he belongs in the “Loser in Relationships” group, At the same time, he knows he doesn’t belong in the Happily Ever After group. Yet that dream is there – to have a family,

When we’re writing a Christian book, there has to be a spiritual component to the plotting, God’s handiwork woven through the plot. Instead of Joe seeing himself in the Happily Ever After category…I needed to bring him to the place where he sees himself as Belonging to God. As God’s child.

What does that mean for your character? Let’s go back to the greatest dream and greatest fear answer from Hint #1: Everyone has a dream. But something keeps them from achieving that dream – maybe it’s a lie they’ve believed. Maybe it’s a secret they’ve harbored. Maybe is a sin they committed. For Joe, his dream is to restore his family. But he’s afraid of his own weakness, his own fear that he’ll be just like his father and leave under pressure. So, in order to change, and move into the Happily Ever After group, he’ll have to see God as his strength.

Up until now, your character has been largely egocentric (with the exception of the noble cause). Now, God brings him this last step. Overwhelmed, at the black moment, ready to withdraw with his security blanket, he gets to see God reach out and save him. And the thing is, if you’ve written the story right, in a way that the reader not only connects with your character, but sees himself in that character’s shoes, God’s intervention can extend from the pages into the readers heart. It can minister, and change lives. In this “AHA” moment, your character sees that lesson that God has been about teaching him. Whether it’s letting go, or forgiving, or trusting in God for strength.

So – what will it take to move your character from the place/group he is in now to the NEW place he’ll belong to at the story’s end? What truth? What act? What AHA?

Now, as a writer, you know what needs to happen on your character’s journey.

  1. Establish your character’s identity , and along the way reveal his motivations. That’s your back-story.
  2. Remind us of his values and his purpose in life.
  3. Establish his competence.
  4. Chip away at his competence until everything falls apart.
  5. Throw in the black moment just as his greatest fears are about to come true, that moment when he has to battle between his inner values, and face the choice of reverting to security mode, or changing.
  6. Change his life with an Aha moment that make him able to grow and, hopefully, reminds us that God is at work in our own lives.

Creating a character doesn’t have to be about mining your brain for interesting quirks. Simply sit down with your hero/heroine and have a little chat. (Preferably in a room with a closed door where no one can hear you!) Hopefully you’ll discover a character who leaps from the page and into your reader’s hearts.

Don’t forget if  you missed parts 1-2 you can find them at: 
If you want to know more and take your characters even deeper, at Novel.Academy, we’re diving deep into the editing process with a series called Extreme Book Makeover! We’ll be looking at everything from the structure and characterization, to scenes, scene tension, storyworld, dialogue, emotions, wordsmithing and even polishing your novel. Get that course, and over 100 more when you join Novel.Academy. Check out our free lessons and see for yourself!

Your Story Matters. Go, Write Something Brilliant!

Susie May

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What will it take to move your character to the NEW place~ Susan May Warren (Click to Tweet)

Susan May Warren is owner of Novel Rocket and the founder of Novel.Academy. A Christy and RITA award-winning author of over fifty novels with Tyndale,BarbourSteeple HillSummerside Press and Revell publishers, she’s an eight-time Christy award finalist, a three-time RITA Finalist, and a multi-winner of theInspirational Readers Choice award and the ACFW Carol. A popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation, she’s also the author of the popular writing method, The Story Equation. A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at: www.susanmaywarren.com. Contact her at:susan@mybooktherapy.com.