Epiphanies. We’ve had them at one time or another in our lives. They’re the wee moments of clarity in the dimmest, murkiest times when we are trying to find the right answer to our biggest quandaries. Some people simply call them flashes of brilliance or genius. Some might even call it providence. Whatever you may call them, they possess power and magic. They not only have the power to answer your most difficult questions but they also can provide the greatest joy at that time that you could really use a helping hand. As a computer programmer, it comes when you that feature you have been wracking your brain trying to make work finally works. It is the euphoria that comes from finally, after years of research and disappointment for a scientist trying to make that important discovery. The one that makes you get out of your seat and do your celebratory dance. It’s also the one that makes you want to yell out to the world “Eureka!”. It is what we all love about our jobs (for those lucky few like me, who absolutely loves what they do for a living) or hobbies and the reason we keep doing what we do.
Let’s face it, that feeling is addictive. I know when I’m banging my head against the wall trying to solve a plot problem or even trying to figure out exactly what is wrong with my story but not quite understanding it, I want the answer to fall down from the heavens and land in my lap. That happens rarely, but it does! Those are the moments that drive me forward and keep me writing. Just when I think that my brain is tapped out, my subconscious just comes up with the answers I have been seeking. In most cases, it’s usually about the moment when I want to give up everything, put away the stories, and erase my hard drive so there is no trace of any of my ideas anywhere. Though I’m always looking for them, they seem to come right out of the blue and almost always come as a surprise. Like that moment when David Levison (Jeff Goldblum) from Independence Day discovers the way to destroy the aliens. He puts his hand on his head upon the discovery and thinks “Why didn’t I think of that earlier!”. That is what it is like for me when I discover that a character has been lying to me.
Yes, characters lie. They give you their story. They speak it in your mind, and you, the writer, must listen to what they are saying at the moment. But how can a character lie, you ask? How would you know? Epiphanies. That’s how. When you reassess their situation, they let slip their true secrets and you realize that they may have been lying to you the whole time–or maybe part of the time. Then you question that rascal a bit more and find out the truth. That truth, in turn, drives your story forward in a way that you never expected, but always hoped. Sometimes it takes whole drafts to find it. If they’re lying to you, you will find out. They will always let their secrets come out and it will be up to you to distinguish fact from fiction (even though it’s all fiction).
Epiphanies are your friend. They are the reason why you do what you do and keep doing it. It’s a drug that is highly addictive and highly satisfying. It doesn’t happen often but when it does, you know it because it hits you so hard that you just can’t help yourself. You have to dance it out, shout it out, tell the world, and most importantly continue writing.
For those who really want to know, I had an epiphany today about one of my characters in my new novel. I have written two full drafts of this novel and I was in the finishing stages of this novel. Something was always wrong with this character’s main problem. He is not my main character, that is Kalan Laurelbane. No, he is an important character (so important I am going to make him one of the stars) that drives the story. He and Kalan will cross paths and Kalan will end up helping him to resolve his problem. The issue was, though, Orin lied to me. He lied badly and I even knew it. What I didn’t know, though, was how to catch him in the lie. I wrote the first draft of this book back in 2014, well before I published Copper Rain, so this story has been around for more than four years. It wasn’t until this past March that I picked it up and started writing the second draft. So Orin’s story always seemed kind of lame to me and it always bothered me, but because this story was Kalan’s story, it really didn’t matter a whole lot as far as the story went. Kalan still gets what he needs from the story and eventually so does Orin, but now with this epiphany, it means more.
In the original, Orin was accused by the Queen’s new advisor of stealing the recently deceased King’s signet ring. He didn’t do it, of course, but he was banished from the kingdom. So his story was trying to restore his good name. A lofty goal, but weak, in my opinion. It worked well enough to finish the story, but on the second go-around, something always bothered me about it. Today, as I was investigating the scenes to find any potential flaws in the scenes themselves, Orin let slip that it wasn’t the ring that got him in trouble. In fact, the ring was nowhere in the picture. He was accused of either killing the King outright while on a hunting expedition while in a drunken rage or his negligence to protect the King while on his hunting expedition from the murderer because he was drunk accidentally came out. What an epiphany that was. Orin, who was the Captain of the Guard in Merrydote City, is accused of doing something that he doesn’t remember and has absolutely no recollection of having even been on the detail to protect the King. That was exactly what I was looking for. Now, I have the full story.
Now here is the problem, dear reader. I will have to extend the release of the second book to cover this new discovery. I am fine with that. You know why? Most of the first draft actually splits its time between three characters: Kalan, Orin, and an Apothecary-turned-wannabe-adventurer named Ren. The second draft was going to focus on just Kalan and his friends once again, but now I need to show Orin in his plight and how he gets his life back in order once again. The good news is, I wrote the first draft in multiple points of view, and the second in Kalan’s point of view, so I have a lot of material to work with. Hopefully, I can put it together rather quickly and shoot for a release date sooner rather than later.
Anyway, I felt so elated as to write down my excitement and share it with anyone who is listening. Thanks for taking the time to read this and, as always, happy writing.