Monday, January 09, 2012

The Epiphany


If there’s one word every writer dreads and every story executive demands, it is “Epiphany”. That moment when the penny drops for the lead character and he realizes what the point of his cinematic journey has been, understands how to overcome the obstacles placed in his path, discovers what will bring about a successful resolution.

Without that moment the development exec knows the story probably won’t work. For cinema (and TV) is about transformation – facing a fear and finding a way to overcome it and go on to a better life.

But for the writer, scripting that scene is a bitch.

The audience can’t see it coming, but have to have all the information to know it when they see it. It’s gotta be a surprise, a revelation, a moment of blinding awe and inspiration.

Writers beat their heads against the Epiphany for hours, days, weeks even years. It demands they look at their story and their characters from every conceivable position plus a few that didn’t even make it into the Kama Sutra.

It’s hard work. The kind that makes writing painful and scary for many, causes more than a few to avoid the task at all costs and probably accounts for most cases of writer’s block.

Sometimes it wears down the development executives and the producers as well. The clock is ticking. The set needs pages. Why not just go with this. It’s worked before.

Such decisions let everyone get on with their lives – and ensure that actors like Steven Seagal maintain a career.

Safe mode is only a keystroke away.

But the reality of writing is that when you sit down to write you are taking a journey. It’s going to be long and hard. You may know exactly where you want to go. But the journey will be the one who determines what awaits you at the end.

So many elements of any journey are beyond our control. The weather changes. Planes get delayed. While you’re in the air there’s an earthquake at your destination or the economy collapses.

What we think we’re looking for is not always what we find.

But when you look back on the journeys you’ve taken – aren’t the ones with the unplanned for, unexpected twists and turns those you remember the most?

It’s the same for an audience.

I’m betting that in the last few days, a lot of writers reading this made a commitment to write something really good in 2012. To finally start or finish that story they’ve always wanted to write.

Now it’s a week into the new year. The house has never been cleaner. Everything on the “Honey-Do” list has been crossed off. You’ve even sorted all your socks and tax receipts.

But that story is still tapping its foot inside your subconscious –- waiting to hit the road.

Because the road is hard and it wears you down. And there’s always that one big hill you know you won’t be able to avoid.

Maybe you need to look at the other definition of Epiphany. The original meaning in ancient Greek -- “A Vision of God”.


In the Christian Calendar Epiphany was this weekend, January 6th – 12 days after Christmas and symbolizing the Magi (on their journey) discovering God in human form.

Whether you believe in that stuff or not is up to you. The point is, in a movie about the three wise men that discovery is their moment of…

They didn’t see it coming. It changed them completely and it made all they’d been through and still had to face worthwhile.

That’s how you have to approach your writing. Accept and try to enjoy the trials and tribulations of the journey. When you arrive at an unexpected place, don’t give up and go back and try to find the Interstate.

Let the journey take you where it wants to go.

Because when you arrive at that dreaded “E” moment, it will be so much better than what you thought you were seeking. It’ll be a surprise to you and perhaps a revelation. Which means it’s gonna awe the shit out of your audience and development exec.

The journey’s joys always outweigh the pain.

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