What are Obligatory Moments?
Obligatory Moments are the key events in every story that change the human value and pay off reader expectations in a story. The value shifts are the most pronounced in these moments of the story and readers tend to recognize and appreciate these moments more than other moments of the story. Obligatory Moments are set up by the GENRE CONVENTIONS in a story.
3 Types of Obligatory Moments
Obligatory Moments are divided into three types:
1. Unexpected Events
Unexpected Events arise from AVATARS with opposing goals creating responsive conflict. Unexpected events may arise in the INCITING INCIDENT, the TURNING POINT PROGRESSIVE COMPLICATION, or the RESOLUTION of a scene within the story.
Revelations are TURNING POINT PROGRESSIVE COMPLICATIONS that happen under two circumstances. New information may come from an AVATAR or the arena, or the protagonist may gain a new perspective on information they already know. Either way, the protagonist has a clearer view of their situation.
3. Decisions and Actions
Decisions and Actions are the CLIMAX moments of change that happen when unexpected events and revelations give rise to a dilemma or CRISIS. The protagonist exercises their agency in the arena to change themselves and their circumstances.
Examples of Unexpected Event Obligatory Moments
The first type of unexpected event we encounter in a story is the inciting incident, which kicks off the primary conflict in the story.
- In Treasure Island, Billy Bones brings a treasure map to Jim’s home at the Admiral Benbow Inn and warns him about a seafaring man with one leg.
- In Murder on the Orient Express, Ratchett is found murdered in his compartment aboard the train.
- In Pride & Prejudice, Elizabeth meets Mr. Darcy at the Meryton Assembly ball.
Other unexpected event obligatory moments cause irreversible change in a turning point progressive complication, forcing the luminary agent to confront a dilemma. Sometimes the resolution is an unexpected response from the shadow agent or other agent in the arena.
- In Treasure Island, Billy Bones dies leaving his map to Jim (turning point). When Jim shares the map with Dr. Livesey and Squire Trelawney, the adults suggest they go after the treasure (resolution).
- In Murder on the Orient Express, Poirot finds a scrap of paper referring to Daisy Armstrong, which helps Poirot realize Ratchett’s true identity (turning point).
- In Pride & Prejudice, Lydia Bennet runs away with George Wickham (turning point). When Elizabeth learns of Darcy’s sacrifice, she regrets her earlier treatment and decides to commit to him in marriage (resolution).
Examples of Revelation Obligatory Moments
Revelations are turning point progressive complications in the story.
- In Treasure Island, Jim Hawkins learns that Silver is a dangerous pirate who intends to kill the innocent crew members.
- In Murder on the Orient Express, Poirot realizes that the two mysterious people mentioned by the passengers can’t be found on the train.
- In Pride & Prejudice, Elizabeth and Darcy both see their relationship in a new light when she realizes her family is as ridiculous as Darcy says, and Darcy realizes he is as prideful as Elizabeth says.
Examples of Decision and Action Obligatory Moments
- In Treasure Island, Jim decides to keep the map rather than give it to pirates.
- In Murder on the Orient Express, Poirot decides justice has been done and he will tell the authorities that the murderer most likely escaped out the window.
- In Pride & Prejudice, Elizabeth decides to reject Darcy’s proposal.
Additional Resources for Obligatory Moments:
- Conventions and Obligatory Moments: The Must-Haves To Meet Audience Expectations by Kimberly Kessler and Leslie Watts (Portions of this article have been taken from this book.)
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