Eek, it’s Friday the 13th! Hope nothing unexpectedly bad has happened to you.
This set me to thinking about reversals of fortune – those unexpected happenings that throw characters’ lives into a spin and in testing them bring out their essential qualities. Sometimes, when a piece of writing is going flat it can help to craft a reversal of fortune to shake things up.
Sometimes reversals are positive: the appearance of Cinderella’s fairy godmother, Oliver Twist being taken in by Mr Brownlow, Charlie finding the golden ticket that takes him to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
Sometimes reversals are negative: the outcome of Othello hangs on the accidental dropping of a handkerchief. Anyone who’s read Fingersmith by Sarah Waters will know (no spoilers) that something quite unexpected happens at a certain point, and that changes everything.
Sometimes reversals are more complex, as when Bilbo finds Gollum’s precious ring in The Hobbit. Bottom falling asleep in the woods in Midsummer Night’s Dream and having his head turned into an ass’s by Puck, and then Titania seeing him first on waking from her drugged sleep: they are reversals of fortune. Whether they are good luck or bad luck is debatable, but they certainly add to the mix.
For this week’s writing experiment: Create a scene in which you craft a reversal of fortune that somehow changes a character’s destiny. It’s a contrivance in the writing, of course, so much of the art will lie in making it believable as well as compelling. Healthy dialogue, a strong setting, and a well-drawn character will all come into play.