Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lessons 5 & 6: Adjusting the Volume & Reversing Motives

This week I'm combining the next two lessons in WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK, by Donald Maass. On first glance, both seem straightforward and fairly easy to grasp. Notice I didn't say they were easy to incorporate into our work in progress. Maass is a pro, and his techniques require time and effort to learn.

Lesson 5 is titled Heightening Larger-Than-Life Qualities. Maass suggests "adjusting the volume" on any action, thought or comment our characters have within a story. Either increase or decrease the volume to go against the direction the scene is currently headed. If we've written a very intense, action-oriented scene, our character could reverse that high-tension atmosphere with a shrug and non-committal comment that underplays the excitement. Conversely, if we've written a lazy, relaxed scene, the character could make a bold statement or action that shocks the reader and goes counter to the laidback mood. Remember Maass looks for ways to twist the tables and shake up the story with characters that are larger than life.

Lesson 6 talks about Turnabout and Surprises, or what he refers to as "Reversing Motives." Pick a scene in your story and write down your character's motive. Then write down as many other motives as you can. Pick the last one on your list and rework the scene with that in mind. Again, Maass is looking for unpredictability that surprises and engages the reader.

Are you seeing a pattern? In every lesson, Maass teaches us how to go against the norm in our writing. He encourages us to step outside the box and embrace originality, perhaps peppered with a bit of audacity, to meld bizarre, seemingly non-convergent traits and actions into a memorable character.

Easy? Never!

Good luck with your writing this week!

Wishing you abundant blessings!

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