I took this photo of a hinge in France during the summer.

I think it’s very beautiful: it is functional but the decoration of leaves and fruit (acorns? vines?) prevents it from being merely utilitarian. I like the contrast between the dark metal, the gilding and the pale wood.

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I took this one in Chipping Sodbury. It is on the door to the old police station and is altogether more florid and – well – blue. Both hinges assist in the transition from one location or state to another, opening the door admitting you to the interior or ejecting you to the exterior depending on your direction of travel.

In literature, plots need hinges too. In order to propel your hero on his journey through your narrative, to make him leave his ordinary life and enter the world of your story, you might need some kind of hinge – a device such as a message, a setback or a challenge – to open the door and send him on his way. As he progresses, different portals might need to open for him, some of them leading up blind alleys, others closer to the heart of the adventure. These moments of transition, like my decorative hinges, need to be more than purely functional. If you bolt them on because you discover that you need them, the mechanism will grate and grind. If they exist as events in their own right and are neatly integrated into your story, they will operate smoothly. It’s the difference between being expedient and going for an off-the-shelf option, or crafting something specific and individual.

If you are planning a story or a novel, spend some time thinking about the transitional moments in it and how you can best engineer them. Change  – in location, in outlook, in expectation, in fortune – is an essential ingredient in any narrative. If the hero doesn’t change, his experience will have been in vain. A narrative hinge is the device which makes this possible.