Not all choices are this straight-forward.
You don’t have to be writing a memoir to want to tell about the turning points in your life. In fiction, the turning points are plot changes that keep us turning pages and wondering what will happen next. When you’re sharing your memory episodes, however, it’s more about revealing how you got to the point you are now.
You don’t have to have walked on burning coals to get to where you are for your account of life turning points to matter to your loved ones. They may face similar forks in the road in their own lives. Knowing how you made your choices will strengthen connections. It’s possible that it will help them figure out their own dilemmas.
Career Turning Points
Many people I know, myself included, aren’t practicing the profession in which they started out. Explain how you decided to change careers. Was it serendipitous or was it a hard-fought decision? Was it a compromise or were you following your heart? Did you have to go back to school? Do you have any regrets? What benefits have you reaped from the change? Was there a catalyst to this turning point? How did your decisions affect the rest of the family? (A good example of this is Anthony’s What Is the Turning Point in Your Life? at DivineCaroline.com.)
For some people, it’s not a strict either-or proposition. Some vocations, such as voice, theatre, woodworking, etc., also lend themselves to avocations. Is there something that doesn’t earn you money but yet makes your heart sing? Write about how you found your focus.
Relationship Turning Points
Fifty-somethings, like me, often neglect to share these heart-gripping stories with younger generations. They only see what we are now and can’t imagine us young and in love. Giving a glimpse to other stages of our life solidifies our relationships.
You can write about how you decided with whom you were—or were not—going to spend your life. When you knew you were—or weren’t—in love. Did you have a relationship that prepared you for the person you were later going to meet? Was there a turning point in a serious relationship at which you just had to throw in the towel? Write about these turning points and how you found your way.
Family Turning Points
Did you have a hard time leaving home or have you decided to return to take care of aging parents? Was there a definitive turning point in that decision-making process? What prompted a decision to (not) start your own family?
Other family turning points include geographic moves, adoptions, life-style choices, and school decisions. What’s your family’s story?
Fork in road cause for change?
Following Your Dream Turning Points
I remember giving up ballet because having to wait three more years to get into toe-shoes was just too much! I wish I’d stuck with it just a little longer. If you were an athlete, when and how did you decide to hang up your cleats, skates, or whatever footwear is related to your sport? Did you slowly disengage or did your sports career come to a screeching halt at graduation? Did you try to play college sports? Did you try to go pro? Was there a time when sport became work?
These stories of pursuing versus giving up on dreams are important and poignant because they are metaphors for so many other things in our lives. Knowing when to persevere and when to change priorities isn’t always easy. Share the story of how you figured out the roadmap to your life.
Other Turning Points
We’ve only scratched the surface, but you’ve got the idea by now. You may have had turning points of faith or sexuality. Was there an event or series of events that changed the focus of your life? Perhaps something influenced you to take up a cause. Was there a turning point that brought you to (or forced you into) a decision?
I’d love to hear your ideas, too. What turning points have you written about? Which ones do you plan to write about?
Are you in the middle of writing your story and wondering how to write a scene that indicates a turning point? Learn about turning points and how to show them within your story from Laurie Alberts, author of Showing & Telling.
Turning points in the action or the character’s emotions must be rendered in scenes rather than summary. Can you imagine Rhett Butler’s famous line “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” in Gone With the Wind relayed in summary instead of in the vivid scene in which Scarlett finally decides she loves him but Rhett has had enough and walks out on her?
In Herman Melville’s classic story “Bartleby the Scrivener,” a lot of initial summary describes the members of the narrator’s office, but when the narrator asks his (until this point accommodating) clerk, Bartleby, to do some copying, and Bartleby shakes the narrator’s little world by saying “I would prefer not to,” a scene conveys this turning point. After Bartleby’s refusal, the story has changed direction.
Turning points can be shown via actions, as when the teenage girl alone in her family’s house in Joyce Carol Oates’s story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” walks out the door to join the terrifying stalker Arnold Friend.
Turning points can occur without direct confrontation. A turning point scene might be wholly internal, as when it leads up to a character making an important decision or coming to see the truth about a situation without necessarily voicing that awareness. If Sally gets called to the principal’s office and is reprimanded and put on probation, and while the principal is chastising her she decides to quit her job, this would be a turning point. There’s been no open confrontation (though there’s plenty of conflict), Sally has said nothing, but the event has led to her decision to quit—that’s a turning point scene.
Think about what point in your narrative your protagonist or narrator reaches a turning point. Your turning point scene—and it must be a scene, not a summary—can show this change in the character’s life or consciousness through thoughts, action, or dialogue. But it must grow naturally out of what comes before so that the turning point is credible. In other words, if you’re going to show a girl walking out of her house to join a scary stalker, you better have already shown us that this stalker has, through terror and threats of reprisals on her family, broken this girl’s will. You want your readers to believe in the turning point, and they won’t if it comes out of thin air.
This excerpt is from Showing & Telling by Laurie Alberts. Buy this book and discover:
- The purposes of scenes
- Five types of scenes—flashback, suspense, resolution, conflict, and ones that introduce character
- How to write the beginning, middle, and end of a scene
- Practice exercises for writing scenes
- What summary is and how to use it to set up a scene
Buy Showing & Telling now!
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