The Crucible

I've been reading Stein on Writing for the last two years. It's an excellent book and I picked it up yesterday to read a chapter. The chapter I'd read last caught my attention though, and I reread it.

Says Stein "A Crucible is an environment, emotional or physical, that bonds two people. It can be a scene or a series of scenes, but more often the crucible is an entire book. The crucible is a relationship, often one influenced by locale."

He cites some examples, including Lolita, because the hero is in love with a young woman, really, a child. The Count of Monte Cristo is a story that immediately came to my mind. First, the hero is in a prison in the sea from which no one ever returns. Then he escapes and his crucible becomes his desire for revenge, which keeps him from the only woman he has ever loved.

Have you ever heard this term before? Is there a crucible in your manuscript? Can you think of any books or movies with a definite and strong crucible?



Tabitha Bird said…
No, I haven't heard of this term before. But I love the concept. No books or movies immediately come to mind. I guess Lord of the rings had a pretty strong crucible. Does that count? Sorry, Jess, Can't think. :)
No problem. The idea makes sense to me, but I couldn't think of something for sure either. LOL So is it morning in Australia? :-)
Jody Hedlund said…
Hmmm. . .I've heard of this before, but not quite like that. Interesting. I'll have to investigate a little more! You've got my wheels churning this morning bright and early!
I'm like Jody, I've heard the term before and know what it is, but not in relationship to writing. I will read more on it. Thanks for getting my mind cranked up this early morning! Love learning new things.
Hi Jody, it's early, but not bright over here. LOL Yeah, I thought it was pretty interesting too.
Morning Donna! I haven't even tried to research it more than what's in the book. Hopefully there are some good articles online somewhere.
Stephanie Faris said…
I've never heard of it but I know setting can almost become a character of its own in a book.
I've heard of the term, but the definition is new to me. It's interesting! There's no crucible in my story.

I'm thinking of Forrest Gump; the crucible between Forrest and Jenny as young kids, her home life, his disability, their proximity, how it all bonds them.
Jennifer Shirk said…
Hmm... Never heard of that. But it sounds a little like motivation.
Interesting to think about. :)
Wow. I never thought of this before in relation to writing, only in real life!
The one book/play/move that comes to my mind is Don Quiote/Man of LaMancha. He and the girl he loves are in a crucible. It's a fascinating, multi-layed story of love and victory and grace.
Linda Kage said…
I'd never hear of a crucible in the writing world before, except for that Arthur Miller play about the Salem Witch Trials. But I can see how you'd need one in, well, EVERY story you write, especially in every romance story.

An emotional or physical environment is a pretty broad base, so I bet a person could find a crucible in any story they read or write, otherwise it wouldn't have any kind of depth.

Thank you so much for entering a new word into my vocabulary. I like it. Crucible. Cool.
I thought it was interesting too, guys, and had never heard of it. The chapter is really good and much more detailed than what I wrote here.

Janna and Jeanette, those are really good examples!

I'll bet you're right that there's one in every story. Or there should be, I would think. LOL
Angie Ledbetter said…
I hope my WIP is a crucible.

That definition kinda fits jury duty or any other situation where people come together by circumstances and share time/events together outside of their "regular" lives. :D
Karen Hossink said…
I've heard the word, but that's about it.
Thinking in real-life terms right now, and I'd say my grandmother's recent fall and the resulting hospital/re-hab environment was a crucible. Because it certainly bonded us!
Keli Gwyn said…
Stein's book is a wealth of information. I'm glad you're getting so much from it.
It really is, Keli. He makes me think about stuff I've never even heard of, like this crucible thingy. LOL
Katie Salidas said…
Oooh, new vocab words. Nope, I've never heard about this before. Thanks for sharing.
ooooh. love this post and the ideas that it generated! my heroine's crucible in Blessed is her self-sufficiency and reluctance to trust ANYone, b/c the few times she has trusted, it ended disastrously.

i love your short, sweet, thought-provoking posts!

The Character Therapist
denise petrovich said…
Hi. I have heard the word before although I believe it was in reference to the life, death and resurrection of Christ. The word evokes mystery to me. I like it. Thanks honey, Love Mom
Regina Quentin said…
I've never heard this term used in this way, but you picked my favorite film as an example...The Count of Monte Cristo.

This is an interesting concept. Thanks.
Why did my mind immediately go to faith-strengthening trials when I saw the word crucible!

No problem Katie! LOL Isn't if funny how we love new words? I think that's why I loved Anne of Green Gables so much...
Hi Jeannie,
Trust is a great, conflict-filled emotion to work with, I think. Thank you for your sweet comment. :-)
Hey mom, I know we already talked on the phone but in case anyone else reads this, isn't there a famous play about religion and the Salem Witch trials called the Crucible?
Oh, you know, Linda Kage above mentioned that. It might be why the word makes us think of religion. Hmmmm...
That is one of my favorite movies too! I love it!
Thank you for stopping by. :-)
Hey Larie,
I'm about convinced it has to do with that play/movie. LOL
Kathy said…
All I could think of was the Arthur Miller play, The Crucible.
Jessie Oliveros said…
That's good. I think I know my crucible. And I am glad that you cited the Count of Monte Cristo as it happened in the book, and not the movie that changed so much of the story.
AngeliStarr said…
I agree with Kathy. "All I could think of was the Arthur Miller play, The Crucible."

Definitely happened to me too.
Tana said…
I'll have to think about what my crucible is. FOr my YA series I suppose it's the island itself.
I think I did that in my last book without realizing it or knowing the official name. I love it when that happens!
Terri Tiffany said…
I've heard of it but maybe cause I have that I guess I kind of know what he is meaning but would never look at my stuff and say--yeah-- I have that going on!
Elana Johnson said…
I haven't heard of this before, but it's resonating with me. Because I definitely think in order to develop relationships (in books and in real life) there must be a crucible moment.

Nancy J. Parra said…
I hadn't heard of this term- but I have heard of the "marriage bed" or "marriage box" for romance- where you get the two main characters alone together- for as long as possible. Ex: cabin in the woods, seaside getaway, etc.

Which is probably the same thing... isn't it?

Great post-Cheers!
I've heard this before from this same book. I'm still not sure I get it completely though. I think of books where the hero and heroine are trapped on an island and consider their situation being a crucible. They're confined and get escape so they must work through their troubles. Does that fit?

I'm so not getting this still!
Deb Shucka said…
What a great concept to view a story through. Thanks for some interesting food for thought.
I've heard the word, but it's not one used much in our day. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any movies or books to use as an example.

You sure got my mind going with this one, Jess. :)

anita said…
Wow, Jessie! As stated above many times, you really made us put our thinkers on with this one! I love learning new lit terms, so thanks so much for the thought provoking post. :-)

I researched online, and here's one definition I found that lays it out very clear: Every story needs a firm reason the character can't just walk away from the story trouble. This is called the story crucible.

So, that in mind ... my story crucible in my WIP for my hero, is his developing feelings for the heroine and his desire to help her keep her estate. My heroine's crucible is her love and devotion for her nieces and brother, causing her to fight to keep her estate.

Interestingly, it seems that my crucible does revolve around a place. Hmmm.
Hey Anita,
I added the link in. Thank you so much!!! Tang really made it clearer for me.

Everyone else, thanks so much for commenting! The crucible was a little confusing for me too, but after I read that link things cleared up.
Jill Kemerer said…
See? I learn something new every day! Thanks for clearing up "crucible" for me! Have a great weekend!
I've never heard that term used for writing before - although in high school I had a part in the play "The Crucible" so I knew the word, just not in a writing context. I'll have to think about it more in applying it to my own stories.
Genny said…
I always love the interesting tidbits you have over here, Jessica. :)
Warren Baldwin said…
Have nothing to add except to say that I found this interesting and can't help but think how much more interesting sermons would be if we could think of 'crucibles' to craft into them.
Robyn Campbell said…
Jessica, I guess I had a crucible in my last novel that I'm querying now. And the heck of it is I didn't even know it. :)

I love Camy! :)
LOL Warren.
Well, our life is basically a crucible but we don't know it. Every choice takes us closer to one side or the other. :-)
Hi Robyn
Camy is a fount of information! Or maybe I should say an ocean? LOL
Thanks Genny. I try not to let it get boring, although I'm sure it happens. LOL Thank you for the kind comment. :-)

Popular posts from this blog

No One's Perfect

Very Naughty Blogger

Formulaic can Rock