All great stories have momentum.
Every line of a great joke is building up to its punchline. Every scene of an action move is screaming towards the final fight. Every beat of a stage tragedy is building tension to the revelation of a flawed character.
The literary short story, made famous by authors from Anton Chekhov to Alice Munro, contains a singular element that powers its momentum.
“Derived from the Greek word epiphaneia, epiphany means appearance, or manifestation. In literary terms, an epiphany is that moment in the story where a character achieves realization, awareness, or a feeling of knowledge, after which events are seen through the prism of this new light in the story.”
“It probably has a million definitions. It’s the occurrence when the mind, the body, the heart, and the soul focus together and see an old thing in a new way.”
“The soul of the commonest object … seems to us radiant, and may be manifested through any chance, word, or gesture.”
Taking a deep dive into the literary technique of epiphany, and laying out what what I learn along the way, has made me realise just how central the idea is to all forms of storytelling.
One of the biggest challenges in storytelling is illustrating the internal transformations of characters. The journeys that human beings take, from innocence to experience, from victim to villain, from outsider to hero, and thousands more, are the stuff of great stories. And epiphany is the key to illustrating those journeys in your stories.
Follow my creative process for writing a short story with epiphany.
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