Wednesday, September 21, 2011

VP4W 3 Opportunity to Shine

The Virgin's Promise for Writers

We usually say that a story starts with an Inciting Incident--something that changes the protagonist's world enough that it's impossible for them to continue with business as usual.

The inciting incident in the arc of the Virgin's Promise is what Kim Hudson* calls, the Opportunity to Shine:
"The Opportunity to Shine is the action that leads to the first expression of the Virgin's potential. Through the Opportunity to Shine, the Virgin reveals her talent, her dream, or her true nature."
Whether because she was in the right place at the right time, found a place to try something while no one was looking, or had to step up because someone was in need, the Opportunity to Shine is the first intimation that the Virgin might do more than simply conform to everyone else's expectations.

There are several important distinctions between the Virgin's Opportunity to Shine and the Hero's Call to Adventure, the inciting incident in each cycle.

First, the inciting incident comes later for the Virgin. The Call to Adventure is the second beat in the Hero's Journey, the Opportunity to Shine is the third beat in the Virgin's Promise. The motivation for the Hero is straight forward: something threatens the well being of the village and someone needs to do something about it. The situation for the Virgin is more complex. There is much about her Dependent World that is worth preserving, but there's a Price of Conformity that weighs down the Virgin. With the Opportunity to Shine, the Virgin discovers she might have alternatives. This slower start is important because we can't appreciate the Virgin's Opportunity to Shine if we don't understand her world and what it costs her to live there.

A second, and critical difference, is that, as Hudson explains, "The Opportunity to Shine is a compelling event that will not threaten her Dependent World." Unlike the Hero, whose inciting incident involves an explicit threat, the Virgin isn't trying to change her world. She steps up and shines precisely because doing so doesn't (or at least doesn't appear to) threaten her world. Put another way, the Virgin shines precisely because her motive to act is opposite that of the hero.

Many of us follow a similar path to writing. Perhaps its a brochure for a volunteer organization, a report at work, a story for a program at the library, or NaNoWriMo. You certainly wouldn't call yourself a writer, but someone needed help or there was an opportunity to give it a whirl. But people took notice. They said your words made a difference. And you began to wonder, "Perhaps this wasn't just a one-off thing."

* Kim Hudson, The Virgin's Promise

Image: Simon Howden /

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