Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Week 8: Raising the Stakes

If there’s one thing we know about Donald Maass in his WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK, it’s that he always challenges us to raise the stakes. The Southwest Florida RWA chapter recently hosted him for a daylong event in Naples. The comments I’ve heard from folks who attended said his workshop was better than ever. I had the privilege of hearing him a few years ago when he visited my Georgia Romance Writers group, and he was great then. A real plus to attending a Maass event are the in-class exercises you do on your own work in progress. By applying the various techniques to your current story, you go home with a notebook full of ideas you can immediately plug into your manuscript.

One of writers I know who attended the Naples event said Maass mentioned this tip: throw manuscript pages in the air and allow them to fall helter-skelter to the ground. Pick them up out of order and then rework each page to increase the tension (think conflict). Great advice. When we don’t look at the chapter or scene as a whole, but concentrate on the various individual pages, we’re better able to spot opportunities to up the stakes we otherwise may have missed.

Do you understand your characters and why they react the way they do? Ensure your reader understands them as well. And don’t forget the antagonist. He/she needs to be as clearly defined and understood as the hero and heroine. From the beginning of the story, the main characters must feel passionately about whatever goal you’ve given them to achieve. Then that passion needs to be tested over and over as the stakes are raised. Memorable characters live life to the fullest and push the envelope whenever possible. At least that’s what I’m taking away from Maass’ workbook. Your thoughts?

Happy writing!

Wishing you abundant blessings!

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