What a “bendy” moment is…. And why your story should have one

girl-in-black-clothes---balancing-1189552-mToday, I want to talk about what I will call “bendy” moments. They are big moments in life that we all experience. As authors, if our stories are true to life and we are writing believable characters, they will also experience “bendy” moments.

A “bendy” moment can be caused by lots of different situations. Those situations may even be of different magnitude, based on the person experiencing it. What might be a “bendy” moment for me might not be one for you.

Think of a bendy moment as a moment that makes the very fabric of our lives bend. Something happens that is unexpected and also profound enough to alter the future prospect of our lives. As a result we almost feel, for a period of time, that we are not really present in the moment because we are lost in the experience of that event and that change, whether good, bad, or bittersweet.

In literature, some of my favorite “bendy” moments are:

-Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables,” after the bishop pardons him and he has to decide whether to accept Christ in his life and soften his heart.

-Don Quijote, after he is knighted by the innkeeper, attacks a bunch of people after they refuse to admit the beauty of Dulcinea del Toboso, and gets his butt kicked.

-Scarlett O’Hara, post return to Tara, swearing that she will never go hungry again.

Bendy moments are important because, as I mentioned above, they are profound moments. Unless you are writing about ennui or tedium or frustration, that side of the human experience, you really should have a bendy moment for your characters within the context of your story. And probably, you should place it toward the start.

Don Quijote and Valjean’s bendy moments, in fact, come almost at the VERY start of their respective novels. This is because these moments initiate their change, their character development, and a  purpose for their lives that will later unfold.

Bendy moments are great action starters. They are not only psychologically intriguing, but from a story structure standpoint, they are a catalyst to kick the plot into action in an interesting way.

A SECONDARY CHARACTER’S BENDY MOMENT

One thing to consider, based on the examples I gave above, is that protagonists are often those who experience bendy moments, but they don’t have to be.

A secondary character can also experience a bendy moment. It doesn’t have to be dealt with as in depth as one a protagonist faces, but even given less attention, such a circumstance gives fodder to make the secondary players full and real, make your world seem like it is actually inhabited by people, and add new dimensions to your plot.

One of my favorite bendy moments a secondary character experiences is Molly Weasley in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” facing a bogart. I won’t say too much, but her experience drives home, I think, a lot of things for her: the danger of war and the current circumstances, her powerlessness in the face of it to protect her loved ones, a sense of fear and hardened resolve.

There is a change in Mrs. Weasley at that moment. She goes from mother mode–the last time we really saw her before this “bendy” moment was in the previous book, where it’s mentioned she holds Harry as he cries exactly as a mother would–to warrior mode.

It’s a subtle transition, and not much dwelt upon. But it’s real, and deep, and it’s that kind of thing that makes J.K. Rowling’s writing so rich.

Don’t underestimate the power of a bendy moment. And if you have one, make sure you don’t cheapen it by the way you treat it. Readers don’t like that.

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11 responses to “What a “bendy” moment is…. And why your story should have one

  1. Nice post! Very helpful, thank you. 🙂

  2. A main character in one of my works-in-progress is a confirmed bachelor with no interest in a romantic or sexual relationship with anyone of either gender, who is slowly but inexorably falling in love with his (recently widowed) physiotherapist.
    The challenge is to develop him, rather than have him experience a life-changing ‘eureka’ moment – evolution, not revolution – and to experience with him his ultimate realisation of what has befallen him, as he hesitantly declares himself.

    • Long this example of what I was saying…. everyone experiences those “bendy” moments differently, and for some what would be a “eureka” moment and cause that sense of going through the motions, utterly distracted, won’t for others. Sometimes it’s enough, as it is here, just for the reader to be aware of what is happening and how big it is, even if the character can’t. Sometimes, in fact, that’s better.

  3. Interesting. I do enjoy writing these moments. Though I admit that my favorite is giving villains these events. It’s a chance to step off the dark path or go even further into the abyss, which can bring a sense of clarity to the reader and character. I think it also brings out the ‘humanity’ of the villain too. They aren’t blunt objects of darkness that refuse to think beyond hurting people.

  4. I love this term ‘bendy moments’. Pretty much sums it up 😛

  5. Agree entirely! All stories should have “bendy moments,” and not just for the protagonists. “Bendy moments” affecting the lives of our characters’ families and friends can have a profound effect on them…even influence important decisions they must make. I relish “bendy moments”!

  6. I love reading about bendy moments – when the writer writes deep into the character’s feelings. I usually feel like I am knowing the character for the first time then.

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