Hit me with your best shot: emotional turning points

This entry is part 9 of 14 in the series Emotion: it's tough

We’ve briefly mentioned that you have to suit the portrayal of the emotion to fit the pacing of the scene. Sometimes that means we can only afford a quick gesture, thought or even a tell. Other times, that means fully delving the depths of the emotion. So which scenes deserve the biggest emotion, the fullest development?

The short answer: the emotional turning points. This week at edittorrent, author/editor Alicia Rasley shared a useful definition of turning points:

Turning points are the major plot events that cause some big change and modify the trajectory of the characters in the plot. But the “turning” comes from the CHANGE. It’s not just a big dramatic event, it’s an event that “turns” from what’s come before. Yet, if you want a logical, coherent plot, you want that big turning event also growing out of what came before.

Our characters often get to do 180s in circumstances, attitudes and emotions. When these changes come quickly (in a single or short series of scenes), as Alicia says, we have to make sure that the turning event and reactions are organic. And when things change that quickly, we may have to do a lot more emotional exploring so our readers can follow the process instead of just getting jolted from one extreme to another.

For our readers to appreciate the full extent of the change, we also have to set up or establish the beginning point very well. As Alicia says:

Think of the turning point as the culmination of something. Then set up for that in earlier scenes. Then the turning point will have something to turn FROM. It will be a pivot point from one situation to another.

Sometimes the effects of an emotional turning point will be obvious. But most of the time, we can’t jump from fear to anger or joy to despair without showing at least a little of the thought and emotional process. We have to show the turning so that our readers can experience the full emotional journey.

Next time, we’ll look at showing the process.

What do you think? What are your favorite emotional turning points? How are they set up? How are they portrayed?

Photo by Stacy Lynn Baum

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4 thoughts on “Hit me with your best shot: emotional turning points”

  1. This is interesting, and good.

    Your little PDF guides are also thoughtful, and these questions — POV, sympathy with the protag — are things all writers need to dive into and swim around, forever and ever, because we’ll never have it nailed. No matter how long we do it, or what we write, for monies or for fun.

    So you are doing all writers a public service, and I salute you. Good stuff.

  2. Definitely I like to see my characters make choices. A lot of times these choices are between two negatives, so they’re hard and involve sacrifice. But these turning points are the spice of writing.
    The only problem I have with “setting it up” is that I don’t necessarily want my readers to see it coming.
    The turning point should be an OMG moment.
    But I do believe that turning points must derive from the MC’s choice, not be thrust upon them.
    Even if there’s an external event like the death of a character, it’s the MC’s response that creates the turning point, not the act itself.

    Good stuff. 🙂

    1. I believe the setting up here actually means establishing what the character is changing from. But I agree with what you’re saying!

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