Well my mouth is finally not screaming at me. I am slowly coming off the meds and feel coherent enough to write something today.
I got to thinking on this subject as I watched an episode of Game of Thrones(if you're not watching you should be (:). There was a scene— not from the book— that I truly loved. It was a dialog between Catelyn Stark and Talisa (her son's wife). She told a story about Jon Snow her dead husband's bastard. Of how he was sick and she had not been able to do anything before then, but loathe the boy for being born to another woman. She then explained she had prayed that he would get better from the pox and that if he did she would beg her husband to give him the Stark last name and she would claim him as a true son. She did not keep her promise and as she spoke she mused that maybe she had cursed her family by not being able to accept that boy.
I was personally moved by this and as Jon Snow is one of my favorite characters in the book and show I really enjoyed seeing her regret his treatment. Now there are a few people who do reviews on you tube of this show. One of them I subscribe to took issue with this scene not liking that Catelyn was regreting something that was obvious for her to do within her setting. This led to a debate between us that ultimately ended in us having to agree to disagree. So I loved it and this person did not. Does that mean the scene wasn't great? For if it was great we would both love it, right?
I would say no. I know why I love the scene, according to the definition of the word I would be considered a bastard. So for someone like me Jon is a great character and I would be sympathetic to any story arc that had to do with him. I don't know this reviewer personally so I can not assume what in their life might not lead them to the same emotions as myself. Still the success of the scene and the show/books in general was that it found a situation that would appeal to at least some group of people in a way to have them invested in what is going on.
A book at its base is a collection of words, scale it up a bit and it is a collection of moments. Some of these moments will not be anything more than the line from a point A to a point B. As writers we try to make those moments as small and few as we can, but they will almost always be there and the counterweight to them is the great moments that tend to make the story something loved and embraced.
So what makes a moment great? Well there are a multitude of ways to write a memorable scene. The thing is whether it is action, or a romantic moment, maybe just an introspective debate between two of your characters, you have to ask yourself what have I put at stake for this moment? For me what was at stake when Catelyn found herself wondering if her actions were in the right was who she was willing to be past that point. If I have an action scene I try to think of what may be lost what may be gained where does this put my story when it is over. It is a good rule for any scene.
If we as writers do something just to do it, or because the story may be lagging we usually end up with something that feels hollow. To find true emotions or to make a scene really sparkle we have to understand what our intent is in writing it in the first place. Always try to let people see the risk and the change that each moment is having on your characters and they will embrace it because it feels real to them.
All we are as people are a collection of moments that have formed who we are and how we act. Treat your characters the same and they will have life.
Anyway, can't wait to have my book out for all to see—yes probably some of the A to B moments— but hopefully some great ones as well. As always have fun and keep writing.