Writing Tips & Tools

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Lesson 21: High Moments

by Bonnie Calhoun

Today we continue with Donald Maass' Writing a Breakout Novel.

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!

Today's lesson is in Section TWO: High Moments.

I love it when a novel makes you suck in your breath and go, "Oh!" These are high moments, when the story soars above itself and awes or inspires us in some way.

How are such effects achieved? It's easier than you think. Granted there are certain types of story events that are guaranteed to produce wide-eyed reactions. What are they?....forgiveness, self-sacrifice, reversals of direction, moral choices, and death. Do any of these occur in your current manuscript? If not, is there a place for them?

Step 1: In your novel is there one character who can be forgiven by another? What is being forgiven? When? Why?

Step 2: In your novel is there a character who can sacrifice his/herself, or something dearly loved, in some way? Who is it? What does he sacrifice?

Step 3: In your novel is there ancharacter who can change direction? Who is it? What causes the turnabout? When does it happen?

Step 4: In your novel is there a character who faces a moral choice? Who? What choice? How can that choice become more difficult?

Step 5: In your novel is there a character whom we do not expect to die, but who can nevertheless perish? Kill that character.

Note: What are the memorable moments in a novel? The high moments, of course, but what do we mean by that? They can mean many things like reconciliation, self-sacrifice, transformation, tests of character, or death. In many novels none of these things occur!

Follow-up: Using the notes you made above, incorporate each of those high moments into your novel!

Conclusion: For a novel to feel big, big things must happen: irrevocalbe changes, hearts opening, hearts breaking, saying farewell to one well loved whom we will never meet again. Create these moments. Use them. They are the high moments that make a novel highly dramatic.


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