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Once again, my readers, I am back, and this time bringing to you a well-known plot device–so well-known, perhaps, that maybe you don’t even think of it like this. Maybe you don’t even know it, but I’ll bet you’ve probably been using it, unconsciously, all through your writing life.
I’m talking about the phenomenon known as breathe. Or, more simply, take a breath and keep on living.
But this is actually two things, and probably you’ve been using them both. The first one is the actual deep breath before the plunge.
The second is still more innocuous. I don’t know if it even has a name, properly, so I’m going to call it The Breath.
The Breath has only two requirements, and they are as follows:
- There must be a look shared between two characters; as in they must meet each other’s eyes. (Gasp!) Even though this is a social no-no.
- Is the redeeming feature. This simple look, only a few milliseconds long, must also convey some meaning.
That’s it. But, if you think about it, The Breath is meaningful and an important element in literature. It says the things that characters never otherwise say. It bears meaning.
It’s like paisley. It started out sharing a name with a little town in Scotland, and now it’s a recurrently popular pattern.
Now, for the examples. It’s like when Merlin and Arthur exchange a glance, and Arthur leaps out and attacks the bandits. Or when Anakin and Obi-Wan exchange a glance–at exactly the same moment—before Anakin’s little line “What will happen to me now?” Sheesh, even Obi-Wan’s look at the camera right after Qui-Gon’s line “I will train him” could be counted–even though, technically, this is a look at the audience and not at another character. Or Keyla looking at Dwurp and knowing he’s been betrayed. Or you could see Frodo and Sam glance at each other just before Frodo says, “I’m glad you are here with me, Sam. Here at the end of all things.” Or it could be the look when Meg Murry and her brother Charles Wallace Murry share after he’s been ill, or the one between Meg and Calvin O’Keefe when they know they don’t exactly have to kythe, just be in communion with each other. Or maybe it’s Horatio Hornblower and Bunting looking at each other and by that, Hornblower knows that the heretofore troublemaker won’t be instigating a mutiny–anyway, not this time. Or Merida and Elinor smiling at each other after Merida turned aside a potential disaster.