Turn Your ‘Ah Ha!’ Moments into Amazing Characters

When was the last time you had an “ah ha!” moment? Mine happened about two months ago, after I arrived home from work and found my house ransacked.

That Monday in April was the day I realized how much I appreciate my right to own a gun. You see, I’d called 9-1-1 (I was alone at the time) and frantically told the operator the burglar may still be inside my house. I was stuck outside–a young woman in the dark–with no protection.

The police took 40 minutes to finally show. And I realized, the only person who will protect me–is me. “Ah ha!”

For the first time in my life, I considered becoming a gun owner. If I were a character in your book or story, what would this moment reveal about me?

Use your revelations to reveal your characters’ truths

My blogging buddy, Leah Singer, wrote this great post back in May called, “My ‘Ah Ha!’ Moments.” Even though she didn’t refer to character development, she got me thinking: How can we use these revelatory moments to unearth greater truths about our fictional characters?

In her bestselling book, “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life,” Anne Lamott said a death or a birth must occur in every story. Whether it’s the death of a dream, a physical death, or a realization (birth), you cannot have that dramatic conflict without either/or.

5 Personal “Ah Ha!” Moments to Consider

Yes, I’m going to take a leap of faith here, and reveal five of MY “ah ha!” moments. With each revelation, consider the story behind the statement, and what might have led to this conclusion:

  1. Just because I was thin through my 20’s, doesn’t mean I’ll be thin in my 30’s (unless I work at it).
  2. I may never work in journalism again.
  3. Sometimes, money is more important than dreams.
  4. I betrayed myself when I refused to accept my heritage.
  5. My family is more important than my career.

Notice, each one of these “ah ha!” moments reveals some sort of internal or societal conflict.

SO TELL ME: What have been significant “ah ha!” moments in YOUR life, and how could those experiences add depth to your characters?

NOTE TO FACEBOOK USERS: I took the plunge and opened an official Facebook page for this blog and all things writing. Thanks for everyone’s input! If you’re in a supportive mood, head on over to my page and “like” me. 🙂 We’ll see how this goes …

10 thoughts on “Turn Your ‘Ah Ha!’ Moments into Amazing Characters

  1. Hey Shari, My Aha moment… That moment of perfect clarity, where everything makes sense and one can make a wonderful life changing decision… I’m yet to have it but I am working on it!

    In all seriousness, another great, thought provoking post.


  2. Great post, Shari. I love Anne Lamott’s advice, which also mirrors Christopher Vogler’s (The Writer’s Journey) – that there has to be a death (literal or metaphorical) to add that tension and emotion. I had an ah ha moment over the past few years, and it was due to the lousy economy. Somehow, instead of worrying my pants off because my income had been annihilated, I finally learned that ‘worrying about it’ wasn’t going to get me anywhere, that I had no control over the financial situation. Somehow I learned to finally live in the moment, and I’m taking this time to focus on my fiction more than I ever have. And I’m having a blast.


    1. I really respect you for your ah ha moment, Melissa. Sometimes, it takes something as dramatic as losing a job or your financial stability to force us to really go after our dreams, huh? SO glad you’re having a blast, out of a difficult experience.


  3. My greatest aha moments:

    1) Having someone “kind” in my life is so much more important than looks.
    2) Having a job that will let me enjoy my life is more important than money.
    3) Maybe I dont want to live alone for the rest of my life.
    4) Being true to myself and what I need is more important that what people THINK I need.
    5) My family and friends are my life and in the end, that is all that is important.


  4. This is such a great post, Shari! And thanks for the shout-out too! I couldn’t agree with you more on #1 and 3. I’d take #3 a step further for me by saying that it’s more than just money. It’s job security, health insurance, retirement, and all those things we didn’t care about when we were “young,” but now really do need to consider. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending how you look at it), dreams do take a back-seat to that. And I’m learning to accept my body now for what it is. It’s hard. But it’s a good lesson.


    1. Thanks Leah! And I agree with you on the job security, health insurance, etc. We usually don’t understand the value in those things ’till we’re older, huh? And you’re right, it’s hard to accept your new body, but also humbling.


  5. Your post has made me stop and think. Thank you!
    1. Teaching may was not the best thing for me to get my degree in.
    2. Apparently patience really is a virtue
    3. Vitamins actually do have a positive effect on my body
    4. Most people can’t be trusted but there are a few that have integrity
    5. I can get stronger as long as I put in the effort


    1. Thank you for being so candid and sharing five of YOUR “ah ha!” moments with us. 🙂 I’m glad this post helped you to stop and think. It made me really contemplate five revelations I’ve had, and how I can use them in my stories, to write this post as well.


C'mon, you MUST be thinking something.

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