Making Memorable Moments in Fiction – A Non-Tutorial

Greetings, friends, and happy Wednesday! We’re almost through the week, so let’s keep the momentum going. I’ll admit I’ve had a rough few days this week, but like I said in the Learning to Love Yourself blog entry, it’s okay to break down and allow yourself to be sad, but just be ready to bounce back eventually. That’s exactly what I’m working on.

Morning rant aside, it’s time to rant about another topic, one that I realized when I was working on my game this morning. With the Prologue chapter almost done in terms of programming, I was going over the script of my game and read the dialogue for the scene that starts Chapter One off. To be honest, I surprised myself. As I mentioned before, the main protagonist, Jack Hemlock, is a silent protagonist, but this scene is actually a flashback of his where he is actually talking. It shows the moment that his ex fiancée broke things off with him, but the dialogue and the context is just so human and raw that it sent a chill down my spine. It hit home pretty hard for me, and I have a feeling it will do the same for many people since it shows the honest part of a very real and very common problem that maybe even some of you guys had to deal with at one point or another. I think this intro to Chapter One is perfect, and will certainly shock a lot of people and stay in their minds as they play the game.

Thinking about it more made me ask myself this question—what makes a moment, scene, character, or even a song memorable? There are a number of factors, and when it comes to your own projects, whether you’re writing a book, composing music, or what have you, ask this question to yourself: what is memorable to you? When you think back at scenes from video games, movies, or other books you’ve written, what was it about those scenes that made it so memorable for you? Was it the situation itself? The writing of the dialogue? The character dynamic? Or perhaps even the music that stuck out? There are so many factors that go into making a memorable moment in a work of fiction, so I’d like to dissect that a bit.

Let’s sort of run down the list of what can make a scene or moment memorable: the scenario itself, the characters involved with that scenario, the dialogue between the characters (or even a lack thereof), the music that plays during that scene (or a lack thereof), and sometimes, it could even be the setting itself that blows you away. One of the most memorable moments in gaming for me was in the first RPG I ever played: Final Fantasy IV. To provide a bit of background for those unfamiliar with it, this was one of Square Enix’s first character-driven RPGs, so each character had their own personality and reason to exist in the story.

The main protagonist, Cecil Harvey, was the leader of the strongest military force in the world, the Red Wings, and had attained the honored rank of Dark Knight. However, this basically meant he had to give up his soul for the king and he ended up doing some rather evil deeds. To make a long story short, he grew remorseful after an accidental conquest mission that resulted in the massacre of an entire village that he did not intend on spearheading. He abandons his kingdom and warns other kingdoms of his former kingdom’s conquest, but after an attack, he ends up alone and, as fate would have it, he is stranded in one of the cities where he led an assault on for their Crystal. Everyone hates him since he’s the reason so many innocent people in their city were killed, but their elder says if he can redeem himself by becoming a Paladin and shedding his darkness and bloodstained past, they will aide him in his quest to save his friends.

Along with some helpers, Cecil undergoes some tough trials, but in the end, he receives the Sword of Legend. Here’s where the memorable part begins. When Cecil obtains the sword and transforms from the embodiment of darkness to the embodiment of light, his former Dark Knight self emerges from the mirrors behind him and he enters a fight against his former self. However, the only way to win is to defend yourself against him and not be so quick to resort to violence. The fight itself is designed incredibly well in that way, and then when the fight is over, it plays my favorite song in the game. All the screen says is “Cecil became a Paladin” and it plays the Paladin fanfare, which gives me chills just thinking about it. It’s a short song, but oh my God, it is amazing. It’s such a simple and amazing moment, and I’m still in love with it to this day. The music, the buildup, the transformation, it’s all so good. Final Fantasy IV is far from my favorite game in the series, but that scene is just amazing.

Aside from the amazing music, I think what really resonated with me is the transformation, that symbolism of redemption and being free from your past. After that, Cecil moved on. He didn’t have to dwell on his mistakes. It was inspiring, and even at the young age I was when I saw that scene for the first time, I realized that it meant moving on makes you stronger. Your past mistakes don’t define you, and neither do what people say about you. It’s your ability to stand up and walk through all the trouble you deal with that defines you, and it’s a huge inspiration to stay strong through all of life’s trials.

That’s what makes a scene memorable for someone. It’s something that can really resonate with someone, either in a good way or a bad way. It could be as simple as the death of a beloved character (or even an innocent character that didn’t deserve to die in the first place), or something as deep as a scene posing a question to the player. Something they relate to and don’t usually think about. If a scene has the player (or reader, or viewer) questioning themselves and things they haven’t actually thought about, you can bet that scene will be stick with them. Or if it makes them come to an important realization in their own personal lives, they’ll keep thinking about that scene and it will stick with them.

Memorable scenes hit people hard emotionally. They make them come to real life realizations, or perhaps it’s just as simple as tugging on the heartstrings in either a positive or negative way. There are many ways for a scene to stick out to people, so I want you to think about it when you’re working on your own project: what’s memorable to you?

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