Well-known literary agent Donald Maass has likely ruffled several feathers in his introduction as he differentiates between status seekers and storytellers. However the purpose is not to throw stones, but instead to enable each writer to recognize their potential and the responsibility to reach deeper, regardless of genre or market.
“Having something to say, or something you wish us to experience, is what gives your novel its power. ……When it comes through on the page, you will be a true storyteller.”
All his excerpts and exercises aim towards a new perspective. He states that “it is impossible to be wholly original”, yet each novel has the potential to impact readers when authors learn to trust themselves. This perception gives the fire in the fiction.
It’s not just theory but extremely practical. His examples cover several genres and provide a long reading list for further study. His chapters guide through the usual fiction basics of character, setting, theme, voice, scene, and tension but all with a twist or side view. They look at the common tools from a different angle.
For instance, one section refreshingly lifts secondary characters from their common ordinariness into qualities that make them memorable. He wants writers to push the boundaries instead of worrying that they will overshadow the protagonist. Instead he sees too many manuscripts that are too tame.
How do you make a character special? Look to your own life. What makes a setting unique to your character? “..you must instill the soul of the place into your character’s hearts and make them grapple with it..”.
This book does not offer quick fixes or speedy proposals, but does give valuable resources to become a gifted storyteller who combines talent with craft to write with imagination and significance.
“by a CEN member”
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