Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Week 14: More Maass

Let’s take another peek into WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK, looking at what Donald Maass has to say about complications. Pulling out just a few key lines, we learn “…no goal is achieved without overcoming obstacles…[obstacles] are the essence of plot.” No surprises there. But remember Maass is referring to all blockbusters. Yes, definitely suspense but also romance and women’s fiction as well.

Whether internal or external, the complications make the characters struggle. Nothing comes easily, especially in the bigger book. So the writer must pile on problem after problem after problem while increasing the stakes until the reader—and perhaps even at times the writer—wonders if the hero or heroine will succeed.

Maass cautions to make the situations believable. Authenticity requires ensuring the antagonist is fully developed. A challenge, which most writers, according to Maass, fail to accomplish. Due in part, he suggests, to the fact that writers are not bad people. Try as we might, our villains often fall short because we don’t understand the inner rational of the truly evil mind.

So this week, let’s dissect our villains. What makes him or her tick? Why is he dead set on stopping the hero and/or heroine? What’s his inner motivation? What core values—flawed though they may be—shape him? Is he a believable character? What about the difficulties facing our hero, will our reader “buy” into them as well?

Now examine the problems you’ve already introduced into your story. Can you intensify the complications? More is usually better when it comes to conflict, so compound the situation. Make the hero fight for his life against a powerful adversary and stack the deck against him. Make the reader sweat. With nails bitten to the quick from worry, the reader should see no possible way for the hero to succeed. But of course, he will in the nick of time, with all the odds against him, because you’ve applied Maass’ breakout techniques and your story is better for it.

Happy writing!

Wishing you abundant blessings!
Debby Giusti

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