1. ( initial capital letter ) a Christian festival, observed on January 6, commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles in the persons of the Magi; Twelfth-day.
2. an appearance or manifestation, esp. of a deity.
3. a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.
As writers, we're always searching for epiphany, in its third definition above. The task of putting together theme, plot and character is so complex that we can't see our way outside the world we're building. Our writing process is a never-ending quest for discernment. We need critique partners and editors to help us recognize the details and connections that elude us as we create our raw material.
I pray for discernment, and sometimes, I get it in the form of an epiphany.
This is the most amazing feeling.
All last week, I was struggling to pull my work-in-progress out of its chaotic, mid-revision state. I prayed nightly for help. I knew something needed to change, but I couldn't see what.
On Saturday morning, I got the answer.
I was going to have to cut two opening chapters of the novel, and reverse a character's attitude on a key plot event.
You know when a film burns up, how a black spot starts and then melts across the whole screen? OK, maybe you have to be over 35 to know that, because I don't think they use celluloid in movie theaters anymore. But for those of you who saw this as children, you may be able to picture it. A film freezes, then black, red and brown crackle across the projected image and leave only a clear whiteness.
That's how it feels to have a story epiphany. The little film that has been playing in your head stops, and burns up, and suddenly you are able to see with a clarity that astounds you.
Why didn't I see it before? It's so obvious!
Even my husband voiced similar thoughts when I told him about changing the character attitude. The change was so clearly right, once I voiced it, that he wondered why he hadn't caught the problem himself.
Here's the coolest part, though.
I don't believe, as the third definition says, that an epiphany is caused by a 'simple, homely, or commonplace experience.'
Epiphany happens when the divine breaks through into our world, just as it did on that first Epiphany two thousand years ago. Epiphany occurs when a little supernatural light falls on the page to give us the help we've been asking for.
How about you? Have you had an epiphany recently? What triggered it?