Writing Tips & Tools

Friday, July 13, 2007

Lesson 1: Adding Heroic Qualities

by Bonnie Calhoun

The subject is Donald Maass' Writing a Breakout Novel. Now the man knows his business! He is the President of the Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York, and he sells more than a hundred books a year to publishers.

What I am going to endeavor to do here is present truncated versions of each of the lessons in the workbook. This will by no means suffice as an alternative to reading the book...or the workbook. I hope it piques your appetite to buy the books. They are invaluable reading and reference!

Let's get started on Section One: Character Development

If your character sucks, nobody will like them. That's not to say that they can't have problems. But how much tolerance do you have for somebody who is constantly the negative charge on the magnetic, and wallowing around in the mud of self-pity.

What you've got to do is have the character lift him/her self above their curcumstances like a phoenix rising from the ashes. How do you do that?

You've got to start from the beginning and give us a reason not to just throw the book at the wall! Do you feel sympathy for the protag? Do you see yourself in them? Do you want them to win?

Quickly evoking that kind of identification with a protag is one of the secrets of breakout fiction! ALERT! Most manuscripts don't manage to do this!


1.Who are your personal heroes?

2.What are their greatest qualities?

3.When did you first become aware of their qualities?

4.Assign that quality to your protag. Find a way, even a small way to demonstrate that in their first scene.

Follow-up: Prior to the climax, find six more points where your protag can demonstrate heroic qualities, even in a small way.

Conclusion: Demonstrate special qualities right away, and you will immediately turn your protagonist into a hero or heroine...a character whose outcome matters.


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