When writing most stories, your characters will likely have what can be called, a breakthrough moment. These are moments of grand revelation where the hero learns the evil lords plot, the protagonist realises his true love was in front of him the whole time, and the detective uncovers a key piece of evidence to unravel the whole mystery. That’s not to say characters have an easy time reaching these moments in the book, quite the contrary, but these moments are still the turning points for them. Now. Let’s take a genre like steampunk, a time of Victorian values and more than a little style. I have read more than my fair share and find that these breakthrough moments are rarely as cut and dry as they can be in other genres. It’s a genre where good and evil is rarely a used paradigm, where right and wrong are subjective, and a place where villains use phrases like the greater good. Things are never black and white, instead taking on numerous shades of grey, but below I’ve written down a few of my favourite ideas for having a breakthrough moment in this particular genre.
Tip #1: My first tip would be choosing the correct opponent for your protagonist in these stories. If your world has a government, including the compulsory shady behind the scenes people who secretly control the country, then your characters are unlikely to be a significant threat to them (unless your mixing in some espionage thriller, in which case go for it). Instead of setting up my protagonist against the shady government puppet-master, I gave him someone lower down the food-chain who was the face of the opposition. This man was ambitious but ultimately a tool, and it fit with the true antagonist to have a patsy he could cut loose, and it gave the main character someone he could triumph over when he had his breakthrough moment. It gave the characters a sense of victory, without having them overthrow the whole government, which is good, because ultimately what the main antagonist was doing was for the greater good of his country. You see what I mean about shades of grey?
Tip #2: My second tip for your breakthrough moment would be having more than one of them in your novel. Most twisted plots are hideously complex, with layers upon layers of schemes for a protagonist to have to unravel. So, it might be a good idea to give them more than one moment where they can crow with triumph because they’ve uncovered something important that can improve their situation for the better. These moments won’t be the end of the story, and will often cause more questions than answers, but on the road to uncovering evils masterminds chuckling in their lairs, it’s good to show your character triumphing. This tip has a twofold implication; the first being that any competent villain will not be uncovered in one brilliant stroke, so this can add to believability; and the second being that it shows your protagonist has earned his victory, and not accidentally stumbled onto the self-destruct button.
Tip #3: My final tip builds upon the previous one, and focuses on the final breakthrough moment of your story. Your protagonist has worked hard to get to this point, so make sure you don’t hold back when writing these scenes. The setting will be grand, often with crowds of people, massive fanfare, and the shady villain stepping out of the shadows to see his scheme through to completion. Don’t tell your readers when this moment is happening, it should be obvious from the very first page of the chapter. Through minor victories and disheartening setbacks your protagonist has fought for this moment, so set it apart from your other minor breakthroughs, and, as this is steampunk, do it with style.
That’s it for this particular post, but I have to admit it was a good bit of fun to get the creative juices flowing. One reason for this, a reason I hope I share with some of my readers, is the approaching NaNoWriMo. This is a brilliant challenge to inspire creativity and get some words on paper (the bane of most writers including me), and I hope I’ll see some of your joining me in the trenches. And if you want to learn more about breakthroughs look up The Rocks of Aserol on this site, it might inspire your own novel, and failing that it’s jolly good fun.