I'm a storyteller: the crux of the matter is to reach beauty, poetry; it doesn't matter if that is comedy or tragedy. They're the same if you reach the beauty. —Roberto Benigni
I’m currently facing a crux—the habits I’ve developed over the past two and half years aren’t working for me. I’ve been writing less, exercising less, staying home more (thanks, pandemic), and yet not cleaning or doing productive house stuff. In short, this end stage of the pandemic has me reassessing how I’d like to move forward and is forcing me to get real.
The cruxes in our writing
In writing, our stories are the breadcrumb trails of a character in the act of becoming their truest selves. They have a problem that they’re desperate to solve—whether it’s to find a criminal, to win true love, or to slay a dragon. But they’re human (even if they’re technically inhuman due to being a vampire, say, or a rabbit), and therefore flawed. And that flaw is either going to get better or worse over the course of the story.
The word crux comes from the Latin word for cross and suggests a trial or difficult, essential point. The word crucial comes from the same root. In a novel, the character’s crux is the moment that they come face-to-face with their own major flaw and nearly give up. It’s different from the climax, in that the climax is the point of highest emotion and action.
The crux is the revelation point. It’s the moment at which the main character fails or makes the wrong choice, and it usually happens about halfway through the novel.
This is the moment at which the character decides to double down in pursuit of what they want. First, though, they have to attempt to understand why they failed. They either come to the right conclusion and head onto the right path...or they head off on the wrong one.
The crux is about facing flaws and either accepting the truth or denying it. That sets the stakes for the second half of the story.
The cruxes in our lives
We all have cruxes in our lives, moments in which we have to face our own personal shortcomings in order to move forward. (At least I hope we all do! Maybe it’s just me!) If you’re having trouble spotting the major moments in your story (or understanding your character’s motivations), consider your character’s flaw and look for a scene that reveals their crux. As I said, it should show up near the midpoint in a big, emotional moment.
And if you’re facing a personal crux, try sitting down and writing out what it is that you want...and what you’re willing to do—and what you aren’t—to get it.