More about the defining moment:
An online writing buddy wrote to discuss the idea. She said she has read some novels with no defining moment, and she thinks too many would be messy nd eventually unbelievable or boring. “As for a short story,” she wrote,” if you’re going to have that ‘DF,’ then maybe that’s what you want to start with.”
Her thoughts go along with a concept I’m just learning: scene and sequel. Scene is the event; sequel is the character processing the event.
It seems that a lot of moments that would seem to be “defining” are “scene” events: graduation, marriage, birth of first child, fire, flood, fatal traffic crash, etc. But most of the time, we’re too caught up in the event to understand what a difference it’s going to make to us. So the moment when we realize what redefinition has taken place, would be later, at a quieter time, when we have the leisure for reflection. And so the defining moment might happen, say, when the bride wakes up in Tahiti and walks out onto the balcony to look over the water and realizes that she’s left her mother behind.
I think my buddy is right that too many “defining moments” in a novel would be overwhelming and perhaps comical, because most of us just can’t go through that fundamental re-evaluation very often. But a novel may be a more complete showing of the process of building up to one. It might be the interior aspect of the crisis–or more likely the “elixir” that the hero returns with, the new way of seeing that makes for the happy (or tragic?) ending.
Thinking further about it, it seems that the defining moment could be the turning point in the plot. I guess there are levels of re-evaluation, and the most profound would be the climactic turning point.
The other thing about the defining moment in literature is that the re-evaluation can be on the part of the character about himself–or on the part of the reader about the character.