Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lesson 7: Personal Stakes

Once again, we’re looking at Donald Maass’ WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK. Today, let’s focus on Chapter Seven: Personal Stakes. Maass always talks about raising the stakes, and he’s done exactly that in this chapter. With references to books by Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly and Anita Diamant, Maass shows how these three bestselling authors increase internal motivation to engage the reader. In each case, the authors set up opportunities within their stories that reveal why their protagonists’ goals have to be achieved. Just as suspense and tension escalates within a story, so do the personal stakes.

If you’ll allow me a moment of author intrusion: Harlan Coben is one of my favorite suspense authors, and I enjoyed the excerpts Maass chose to drive home his point about motivation. As I’ve mentioned before, you need to get the workbook to benefit from Maass’s expertise. Discussing the lessons in a short post could never do the book or Mr. Maass justice. Enough said, now on to more of my reflections.

In Chapter Seven, Maass encourages us to write a list of what’s driving our characters. Then he tells us to write down more ideas and more ideas and . . . you get the picture. He wants us to run through the standard options so we’re left with only new, unique and thus creative motivations. Find more, he’ll continue to challenge. And when we think we’ve worked long enough and hard enough, he’ll tell us to incorporate the last six seemingly far-fetched concepts into the story. I’m beginning to think that’s the key. Don’t settle for including the personal stakes once, but continue to fine-tune and improve that motivation over and over again. When done right, the story leaves the world of the ordinary and moves into the profound.

Let’s all try to go a little farther and dig a little deeper this week!

Happy writing!

Wishing you abundant blessings!

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