Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Watershed Moment

Having recently read a book written by Stephen King, entitled, "11/22/63," a work of fiction depicting a watershed moment in our lives, it lead me to thinking about the topic. There are events that change everything; they are not always personal, but more along the lines of incidents which alter the shape of a nation and will interfere with the way a country views itself from that moment forward. We try to make sense of events beyond our control, in any way we can, and sometimes, our interpretation of those events will change over time.

These moments spark some of the greatest novels ever written. Watershed moments are those in which thousands of stories begin, or, in some cases, signify the beginning of the end. We are transformed by such events and distinct actions are put in motion.

In fiction, we have to have moments of great crisis for the protagonist, but they are often of a more personal nature. However, an author can use a watershed moment in history to launch an entire family into a completely different course of events than it would have been on otherwise.

The figurative definition comes from the literal meaning of a point, or division in a river, or stream where the river is split into two distinct paths that will not intersect again.

Here is one idea of the top ten watershed moments in history:

10.The October Revolution: The second phase of the Russian revolution put the Bolsheviks in power.

9.The invention of the Watt steam engine. Thus began the great leap for industrialization.
8. The Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. Because of this shocking act, Austria/Hungary declared war on Serbia which obliged France and Russia to mobilize.
7. Black Plague: two thirds of China's population were wiped out as well as two thirds of Europe's.
6. Storming the Bastille: King Louis XVI asked, “Is this a revolt?” The answer: “No sire, its a revolution.”
5. Vaccine For Small Pox: a devastating disease was eradicated.
4.The Invention of the Printing Press; in 1436 Johannes Gutenberg revolutionized the printing of books.
3.Publication or the 95 Theses: Martin Luther, in 1517, creates an alternative to path open to Christians.
2. Berlin Conference: Otto Von Bismark, carves up Africa.
1. Birth of Jesus of Nazareth

It is curious to note the juxtaposition of the good with the bad in this compilation of earth shattering events. Too often, it is a "shot heard round the world," that sends events into play, but what precedes such an action, must not be ignored. Tensions build on many fronts; this is the stuff of great stories because watershed moments cause great change. As much as we would like to go back to the way things were before, we find we cannot. We must adapt, adjust, and rethink everything. Therein lies a novel.

    "History is a relentless master. It has no present, only the past rushing into the future. To try to hold fast is to be swept aside. " John F. Kennedy


Mary Jane Honegger said...

Stephen King's new book just went to the top of my list. Recognizing that nothing is ever the same after a watershed moment, whether historical or personal, is a powerful way to add depth to the development of both our characters and our storyline. Thanks!

elizabethbrinton said...

Thank you Mary Jane. If you do read the book, we should discuss it. I would love to hear your impressions.

Kathy Cooney Dobbs said...

Makes us think , and reflect about the watershed moments in our own life & how we adapted and changed for the better, or worse