Thursday, February 9, 2012

Where Have All the Big Moments Gone?

Okay, maybe it's just me, but lately I've noticed there's not a lot of big moments in movies and books. 

At least, not in the last few published novels I've read or movies I watched on Netflix. I know this is subjective, and I can still think of a bunch of movies and books that are exempt from this observation, so they are excused from class.

Perhaps I should explain what I mean by "big moment" so the rest of you at home can decipher my meaning.

Simply put, it's a turning point. It can be a major change of direction for the plot, or when some of what character is working towards pays off, or a major set back. The most obvious example is the climax of the plot, but there should be other, smaller climaxes. 

And yeah, there were turning points in the offending books and movies, but they felt really small. Little Timmy made a B on his math test. Rhonda found her lucky penny. Events that progressed the plot, but they didn't feel like much. It was "meh" instead of "Wow, I can't wait to find out what happens next!"

Think about big moments. Harry Potter discovers he's a wizard. Po finds inner peace. A coach gives an inspiring speech in innumerable sports movies. John McClane walks across broken glass shoeless. Johnny gets Baby out of a corner. Frodo is entrusted with the One Ring.

There's a cathartic effect from these turning points, whether things are better or worse for the main character. Something important has changed, and life can never be the same again. 

Not every moment in the movie or book needs to feel like this of course, but turning points should make you feel something. They should stir you, throw you towards the remaining turning points until the inevitable climax occurs and you feel the biggest release of all: the resolution (or conversely, you feel the most pissed off you spend X number of hours of your life on this piece of crap and can never get them back).

I'm not saying every turning point should be POW POW EXPLOSION OMG THE KILLER BEES ARE IN MY RACCOON WOUNDS!!!!!!!!!! but unless they are more dramatic than the events around them, they don't feel like anything at all. 

I really believe that a movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat or a book that is physically impossible to put down has among other things, a dynamic plot. There's twists and turns and high and lows and you're always emotionally engaged. 

But that's just me. My attention span is currently that of a coked up squirrel, so I am harder to entertain at the moment. It might be why I've noticed it more, but it's still something to keep in mind. 

What say you? How you do feel about turning points and how they relate to your own work?


  1. I am a big turning point fan. In fact, my current WIP is based on two turning points, one in the first chapter and one in the next to last chapter (and a couple of cool reveals in the middle). So, yeah, I'm definitely pro Big Moments. I think I know what you mean about not seeing as many of them lately, and I think I have some possible reasons.

    I have a problem. I like to guess what the outcome of a novel is. I've gotten pretty good. There are few books that can really take me for a ride, but the ones that do, I cherish. I like to look ahead to see how things are being set up (seriously, if you want an example of this, we should discuss Jim Butcher's work, as i have guess for the end of a twenty novel series).

    The problem with the guessing of the outcome comes from being right. That is to say, you aren't surprised. It was the logical path. And because it was so logical, it might not have been that surprising, and that's what removes some of the 'bigness' from the moment. I've found that I'm more impressed by the surprise than I am by the turn.

    Caveat: I hate random shit in stories that has no logical reason. If a DM could have rolled dice to get the crazy outcome, I'm really put off. Sometimes surprises seem random at first, but usually there is a reason, and I only despise the ones without reason.

    You can check out one of my all time favorite sets of reveals here

  2. Johnny. Baby. Corner. LMAO. <3 you.

  3. I agree. Most of the books I love best have taken me by surprise with some plot or character development.

    But linear is easier and if you have enough explosions or romance most people don't seem to care.

  4. Rena: ohhh I never thought of that, but yeah. Maybe it is just me. I've gotten older and wiser and... *burst out laughing*

    And yes, random stuff just for the sake of surprised is a cardinal sin, imo.

    Elizabeth: <3 too! :D

    Sarah: that's a good point. I don't mind linear, so much as linear plots that don't really feel like they are progressing.

  5. Turning points are important, of course, but some of them are emotional turning points.

    Killer bees in raccoon wounds are, of course, essential to any good story. Unless there are exploding raccoons, instead.

    Ick. Just got raccoon guts stuck to my aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa