In this post, we look at the moment of truth for a character and how you should use it in your story.
The Spanish call it el momento de la verdad. Hemingway made it famous. It is called the Moment of Truth: the point in a bullfight at which the matador makes the final kill.
It is a breathlessly decisive moment and it is not easy to watch. It is the critical moment when the crowd—and the matador himself—find out if he really has what it takes to make the kill. It is the culmination of a deadly dance between the matador and the fighting bull.
In a story, the moment of truth is just as critical. It is the moment at which you pit your protagonist against his final and greatest challenge. It is the moment when your hero’s courage and skill is put to an extreme test. Will they achieve their story goal? Do they—or don’t they—have what it takes to make the kill, either literally or metaphorically?
The Moment Of Truth For A Character
We need these moments in every genre. Here are some examples of a moment of truth for a character:
- Brutal choice. A young princess must choose between the dashing but unpredictable man she loves and her role as monarch—to be queen, she must let her lover go and sever all ties with him and his family. This is a heart-breaking moment of truth in a historical romance.
- Family blood. A grieving father realises that he loved the beautiful daughter who committed suicide more than his plain but resilient daughter and his only surviving child. When the father finds the honesty to share this with his daughter, it is cruel, yes, but ends their internecine war. A bleak moment of truth in a drama.
- To kill or not to kill? A detective hell-bent on revenge tracks down the serial killer who has murdered several women—including the detective’s female partner—to a deserted warehouse. He has the killer at his mercy, a shard of glass to the killer’s throat. Will his rage consume him? Or will he let justice takes it course? This is a moment of truth in a thriller, a moment you could use to show the truth about your character’s morality and strength.
Choose your moment of truth as a writer.
It doesn’t matter how you approach this moment in your story, screenplay, or novel, keep in mind the moment of truth must be extreme. It must be a critical test. Just like the cruel dance with a bull, it must be intimate, brutal, and deadly. It cuts through the heart. And it must reveal the truth, no matter how bloody or cruel.
- Getting Started – Seven Tips from Famous Writers
- The Locked Room – A simple way to test your plot
- Stamp out that cliché – How clichés and jargon can ruin your writing
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