No one writes their stories exactly the same way. Ideas come to us in different ways too. One of my favorite things to look for when I am creating a story are the shiver moments. What is that? It is a moment where all the braiding of the story comes to a point. Where emotions are high. Where often we see theme. It is a powerful moment that causes the reader or movie watcher to feel shivers. To grip the book or their blanket tighter. The stakes are high. It could possibly be a climatic moment but not always. It works really great as a mirror moment to something else in the story. It is a moment where the reader really feels something. The five biggest ways I have seen this personally are: the climax, mirror moments, a character defining moment, a fail moment or a huge ah ha moment. So when writing a new story keep the idea of finding a shiver moment in mind. Think about what you would need to put into your story to make that moment strong. Remember these moments never contain one element it is a moment where your story braiding comes to a point.
You can also combine these moments to create a more powerful shiver moment. These ones hit harder and leave a longer impact. Example: Wreck-it Ralf has a shiver moment that is a mirror moment, a fail moment and a climatic moment all in one. I think that is why it's my favorite example of a shiver moment.
I will tell you not all shiver moments are created equally some are a lot stronger than others. But they all add a lot to a story. Personally, I feel if you are looking for a stronger shiver moment then use either a mirror moment or a fail moment. But that might just be my own preference. Below are some fun examples of each of the five ways I mentioned seeing shiver moments from both movies and books.
Examples of shiver moments from books and movies:
Beware the below may contain spoilers!!
1. Wreck it Ralph: (Climax, mirror moment, fail moment) Wreck it, Ralph says, “I’m bad. And that’s good. I will never be good. And that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be than me.” This one is huge for me, it gets me every time. It is a climatic moment but it is also a mirror moment and a fail moment all in one. Everything Ralph has been looking for, the hero he is trying to be all comes to a point at that moment. He's about to wreck something which is what makes him a bad guy, yet wrecking something this time, makes him a hero.
2. Boss baby: (Mirror moment): I honestly thought I would hate this movie and then I watched it. The shiver moment happens after the climax is all done when they both got what they wanted and they thought they would be happy but they aren't is so powerful. Tim writes boss baby a letter mirroring some of the same things that were said earlier in the film but the way they are said this time has a different meaning. It is so fun to see the connections and such a strong shiver moment.
3. Thor Ragnarok: (Defining moment) The scene where he thinks all is lost and that he is going to die at the hand of his sister but then finally uses his full lightning power. He pushes her away and defeats her army like they are nothing, after he truly taps into his full potential. His father told him he is stronger and we get to see this at that moment. Every time I see this scene I can hardly sit still.
4. The non-animated Beauty and the Beast: The Evermore song moment (Fail moment): Beast lets Bell go knowing full well that he is out of time. He is choosing to fail in breaking the curse because he cares about her so much. His heart is breaking at this moment. But again it is also the moment where we know he finally has learned his lesson that he's changed. Great song! Powerful shiver moment.
5. Star Wars (Huge Ah ha) When Darth Vader says, "Luke, I am your Father!" Most of us know that now, but when that movie first came out it was a huge shock! The prequels have lessons the surprise but the point is still there. I also think of ah ha moments in romances when they finally realize that they love each other after all or mysteries when we finally understand who the killer was.
1. J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter (Defining moment) We see this again and again in the whole series. When Harry Ron or Hermione step up to fight Lord Voldemort. It isn't always easy but they rise to the occasion. One of the best moments, that is also a shiver moment, is in book number four when Harry fights Voldemort after Cedric dies in the graveyard. I remember gripping that book so tight I got red marks on my hands from the cover.
2. Louis Sachar's Holes (Mirror moment) Stanley Yelnats carries Zero up the mountain saving his friend from the desert. He keeps it light talking about a hot fudge Sunday. Add to this a scene in the next chapter where Stanley sings his family's song to Zero. Its mirror moment is in the past when Stanley's no good dirty rotten pig stealing great great grandfather was to carry madam Zaroni up the mountain instead after carrying the pig up so many times. This moment brings all the braiding together.
3. Gail Carson Levine's Ella Enchanted (Climax) Ella declares, "I shan't marry the prince!" Everyone is commanding her too, but she can't not with her curse. She wants nothing more to Marry him, but not when it would destroy him. To protect him she fights her curse.
4. Betsy Brannon Green's, Don't Close your eyes (Fail moment) When the reader realizes that the main character might have been poisoned and who the murderer is. This one gets me nervous every time! Shiver!
5. Bruce Coville's Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher (Huge Ah ha) When Jeremy finds out that his cool sphere is actually a dragon egg and he is going to be a dragon hatcher. Then again when he finds out why he can't keep her forever. These ones are softer shiver moments but still impactful.
Romances: I love the moment when one of the main characters figure out they they love someone and cannot let them go. They can also be great shiver moments.
In my own writing I am working harder to use this aspect because I feel like it is so powerful. When I thought back to writing my first book, The Royal Spy, two scenes kept coming to mind. Two scenes made the project have to work. One was the mud fight scene and the other the sword fight in the tower with lightning flashing. The first scene is just a fun one that creates happy emotions but the second is a shiver moment. What was missing in the first was the braiding. The layers that make a shiver moment work. Both needed to happen in the story but one had more power than the other.
Challenge 1: Start looking for these moments everywhere! In the movies you watch and the books you read. Look for why they are a shiver moment and what had to come before to make that moment so powerful.
Challenge 2: Start a new story starting with a shiver moment and then build the story from there. Think about what you would need to make this moment powerful.
Thanks for reading, Happy writing and Enjoy! Cassie M. Shiels
Cassie M. Shiels.
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