Monday, May 02, 2011

Standing at the Crossroad

by C.L. Phillips

In life as in our writing, sometimes an event marks the end of an era.  A moment of departure from a path that we can no longer take.  As I plot out my next project, my main character stands at a crossroads.

I'm wondering, what do you feel when you are standing at the crossroads yourself?  This past weekend, we've seen a royal wedding, a beautification of a Pope, and the death of a major figure.  Each of these events marks a crossroad.

What do you feel when you are standing in the crossroad.  Do you even know it?  Ceremonies and rituals have the advantage of helping me know that's where I am.  But what about when it's not so clear cut.  What about those times when you have that last conversation without knowing it is the last.  Or when you finally realize what you are doing is not working for you and you decide to change.

Do those moments happen as clearly in life as they do in our fiction?  Please share how it works for you.  My fiction needs more emotional honesty.


C.L. Phillips said...

I've started tweeting my blog posts under #workingstiffs.

Hope everyone that frequents the blog will starting using the tag for quick little conversations because I'm tracking #workingstiffs on my TweetDeck, and would love to keep in touch.

Ramona said...

Sorry, C.L., I don't tweet, but I can comment.

Emotional honesty is a tough one. You want the character to display enough emotion that the reader feels their pain or indecisions, but not so much that they become whiny or a drag. That's a challenge.

At a crossroads, I think it's good to show the character's uncertainty. Is this the right path? Am I about to make a colossal mistake? If you write it to show that the character doesn't know, either, but is making a best guess....well, what more can you want?

C.L. Phillips said...


What wonderful advice on this day of crossroads. My latest work is in first person, so I appreciate what you say about the fine line between self-doubt and whining.

Many thanks!

Gina said...

C.L. -
I don't tweet, either. In fact, I actively avoid most social media. I'm not much good at crossroads decision-making, either. I suppose a character might be the type to draw a decision tree and fill in the blanks with options, or drop to her knees and pray for guidance. In real life, I usually either go with gut instinct or ignore the issue long enough that all the options are precluded.

C.L. Phillips said...


What I want to do is develop a "crossroads" without explicitly saying that's what it is. Any suggestions on how I might do that?

I always seem to be able to find the crossroads with the advantage of looking back in time, but never quite know it at that moment.

Thanks everyone!

Patg said...

Sorry, CL, I don't tweet either.
Crossroads come upon us all the time. The major ones make us feel like we are standing on a cliff getting vertigo and demand that we stop and think, clear our head and step back. A few deep breaths help, so if your character can do that and then list her/his choices, we see a real person.
Just don't run on too much.

C.L. Phillips said...


I could feel that crossroads in your comment. Wow - now that's what I'm talking about.

Thank you!

Gina said...

C.L. - Recognizing crossroads can be tricky. The major ones that give us time to recognize and think are few and far between, but good dramatic grist for fiction. In real life, it's more often the little, seemingly meaningless, decisions, like driving toward the left side of the parking lot for no particular reason, only to have that choice result in loss of life when a spaceship crashes on that parking space, the psycho serial killer lurks nearby, etc. etc. Those sneaky crossroads let a character look back and agonize about the choices made. There are also the surprise crossroads - make that decision now! Do I jump out of the car the minute it heads toward the cliff, or take my chances that I can survive the drop? Do I acquiesce to the armed intruder, or try to hit him on the head? Think fast! The choice you make may cost your life.

PatREmick said...

Crossroads? You people see crossroads in front of you? I wonder if I ever see them -- or encounter them. Some days I feel like I'm just moving forward in my own bubble... I need to ponder this some more. Obviously I would make a TERRIBLE character in CL's work. (I don't tweet either....Geez, I feel like a real loser tonight...:)

C.L. Phillips said...

Well, I had no idea I would be the lone tweeter in this bunch. :)

Don't worry. I'm opening by tweeting using the hash tag #workingstiffs, that I'll bring our blog to new readers.

PatREmick, you would be a delightful character in my WIP - my Amelia is in a bit of a bubble right now. :)

Gina - I'm going to see if I can sneak in a surprise crossroads. Thanks!

Joyce said...

Good post--and comments. Sorry I'm a day late--and quite a few dollars short. I was at the Festival of Mystery yesterday.

I tweet! Those of you not on Twitter--you don't know what you're missing. It's A LOT of fun.

A very important crossroad in a mystery is when the character makes that all-important decision to solve the murder.