One Defining Moment?

Does your life have one specific event that makes you think back on your life in terms of “before that moment” and “after that moment”? In the novel that I just completed, the defining moment for almost all of the characters would be Pearl Harbor. For most Americans living at the time, Pearl Harbor was quite memorable and certainly impacted many American lives. But for Michi Fujita and Jackson Lieber, Pearl Harbor ended the innocence of their childhoods and thrust their lives into the “after” realm. Michi, because her family was relocated to an internment camp in Arkansas, and for Jackson it was because his father was killed in the Japanese bombing in Hawaii.

Even in my life, I have a defining moment that “ended my childhood” in a way–the death of my grandfather. When I was thirteen, I had all four of my grandparents living. Three of those four seemed “old” to me, in my teenage brain. The one that seemed as if he could go on living forever, was my grandfather Austin Walter. He’d retired from the navy into the mountains of North Georgia, where he practiced as a doctor out of a farmhouse built in the 1800s. He never slowed down, even seeing patients on the same morning that he died of a massive heart attack. His death triggered a series of painful, and life changing events that happened to my family over the next several years–all of which were transformative.

My mother lost her older brother to a brain tumor at thirteen, and that tragic event forever altered the dynamic of her own family. If you look to fiction for examples, many novels have one specific defining moment that puts the lives of the main characters on a different trajectory. For Scarlet O’Hara it was the outbreak of the Civil War, and for Scout Finch it would be her father agreeing to defend Tom.

So much of an author’s personal experiences seem to seep into his or her novels. Obviously, for the sake of the plot it helps to create major, life changing events for characters to work their way through. As readers, we like to see people struggle through difficult circumstances and come out the other side–even if they are a bit roughed up by the experience.

I would think that most of us have at least one big defining moment in our life that we’ve been forced to work through. What event or moment changed your life forever? I would love to hear from you about it.

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