Monday, June 5, 2017

Mirror Moments in Life and Fiction by Annette M. Irby

wall mirror with a desk and decor*

Last week, I shared a list of helpful resources for writers. Today I want to zero in on one of them, Write Your Novel from the Middle by James Scott Bell. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it. Outliners and non-outliners will find very helpful information here.

The “middle” James mentions is that moment in the story where the character experiences a “mirror moment”—a time of self-realization that directly affects the course of the remainder of the story (as well as the beginning). The author studied movies and books to see if his hypothesis was true (that some of his favorite works included this moment) and found many stories use a moment within a scene near the story’s center where the lead character takes a look at her life and considers where she is and what type of life she wants to have and what type of person she wants to be. (In action movies, the lead character takes a look at her circumstances and considers what needs to change to reach her destination.)

This mirror moment gives the lead character a chance to slow down and analyze himself. Is he the type of man he wants to be? The character may consider his history and imagine his future if nothing changes. A simple example might be, a lead character who has no luck in relationships, but he’s lonely. So he analyzes why he can’t stay in a relationship longer than a few months. While he’s pondering these thoughts he might realize (or the mentor archetype might tell him) he’s been putting himself first in his life, or he has commitment issues, or he's afraid of rejection, etc. What will it take to change? Or is he content to live the way he has been living for the rest of his life—alone?

As writers this moment is key. The mirror moment points to the theme of the book. Even if you’re not a plotter, if you know the content of the mirror moment, you’ll have your theme and the beginning of the book leading up to the mirror moment can be written to prove the need for a change. Then, [providing the story is redemptive, the lead character wants to change, and the story is headed toward an HEA (happily ever after) ending], we write the character’s change journey following the mirror moment. We have an instant plot skeleton of sorts with this key element.

The mirror moment is a few paragraphs in a scene where the lead character has a self-realization that changes her life by setting her on a determined path toward change, come what may, because she will fight for a future that is better than her past. (Tweet that!)* She’s seen the results of the past and she’s convinced that she wants a different future. It’s a moment of realizing she can make the changes she wants to see in her life.

A Christian character could experience this realization in prayer and then admit, and live out, his dependence upon God to make any effective, lasting changes in his life. (Sound familiar?)

Mirror moments don’t only happen in fiction. For example, I’m sure, like me, you can pinpoint times in your own life when you had a self-realization that led to change. First, you see the struggle, though you may not name it. (Let’s say, the scale keeps creeping up.) Perhaps a trusted friend points something out in your life. (Let’s say, the fact that when you have dinner dates with him, you always eat dessert though the meals come piled high with plenty of food.) When you first hear this revelation, you might feel defensive, but at home, when you think about what he said, you realize he was right, in fact, you see facets of your struggle that your buddy knows nothing about. (Let’s say, late night dessert snacking in the dark while watching TV.) With this knowledge, you’re faced with an opportunity to change. You have to ask yourself: Do I want to keep living out of control, or do I want to get a handle on this situation? What can I do? If I choose to change, will I be successful? (Maybe you’ve tried before, but been unsuccessful.) So there’s a fear of change, and a fear of what it will cost, not to mention a fear of failure—all relatable elements for your character to experience.

When you look at the past you’re sure you don’t want to live like this anymore. The cost of the change will be worth it, if you'll just fight. (Plenty of your FB friends have before-and-after pictures of their weight-loss journeys. If they can do it, by the grace of God you can do it to!)

What if there are limitations? (Like knee surgery that limits mobility, for example.) Great! (speaking in terms of story) Readers love a good overcomer tale. Show the struggle as real as you can then make that hero in your story heroic. Readers will relate with him, cheer for him, and find inspiration in his story.Then, they'll tell their friends to read your book!

So, let’s peek at our works-in-progress for a second. Do you have a mirror moment in your character’s arc? If not, consider what a fitting self-realization might be. Then, consider how you could include it, and place it near the center of the story. Once you have this element, you can analyze the beginning of your novel so that you leverage that realization and you can write (if you haven’t) the last half to one-third so that your character lives the change journey she committed to in the mirror moment.

I love this tool. It’s made a lot of difference as I’ve plotted my current WIP (work-in-progress), and I know I’ll use it in the future.

Your turn: Have you used a mirror moment in your novel? Have you recognized one while watching a movie or reading fiction? Now that I’ve been studying this concept, I’m going to be watching for such a moment in the middle of movies. How about you?

Write on, friends!

 *Tweetable quote to copy and paste: Characters will fight for a future that is better than the past. #mirrormoment #SeriouslyWrite @AnnetteMIrby


Husband Material by Annette M. Irby

Wyatt Hansen has no fears about commitment, but only three years have passed since his beloved wife died, and he can't bring himself to break their annual dinner date—that is until he meets restaurant owner, Lara Farr. Lara doesn't have time for romance; she has a business to run. At least that's what she tells herself so she doesn't have to admit that commitment scares her. But Lara's business is failing, and it just may take a miracle—or marketing analyst, Wyatt Hansen—to save it. Can Wyatt rescue Lara’s restaurant, help her overcome her fears, and prove he is good husband material?


Annette M. Irby

Annette M. Irby is a freelance editor and Christian fiction author who dabbles in gardening and photography. She enjoys spending time with her family and husband of over twenty-five years, and has completely fallen in love with her grandson. You can learn more about Annette by visiting her website or her page here on Seriously Write. 

Connect with me at:

Twitter: @AnnetteMIrby
Book Review Website:

* Photo credit: the awesome folks at