Writing Tips & Tools

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Lesson 27: Moments In Time

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 THREE: Moments in Time.

There's no doubt that immersing ourselves in another world is one of the pleasures of reading a well-written novel. But as a writer, how can you capture the world of the story, and lives of the characters in just the right way?

As an exercise, it is, in part, a matter of selecting individual moments to freeze for the reader. How do you delineate these in your current manuscript? Can you identify six passages in which you go beyond simple scene settings to capture the flavor of the moment in time, the feeling of an historical era of the uniqueness of a place like no other?

If nit, is there any reason not to put that stuff in!

Step 1: find in your novel a moment of transition, a pause, a moment of character definition or testing, a place where the action can be momentarily frozen, or the prelude to (or the aftermath of) an important plot event.

Step 2: What are three things that make this minute in time different from any other minute in time?

Step 3: What are three things that make this place uniquely different from any other place.

Step 4: What are three things that define the social world of the story at this precise moment?

Step 5: Use the details generated in any of the steps above to craft a paragraph that freezes, for the reader how the world looks and feels toward your POV character. Pin down those unique feelings

Note: Yes we always want to keep things moving in our stories, but it must happen in time, in space and in social context that is credible, detailed and specific! Use the steps above to create at a given moment a snapshot of the story's time to bring the world of the story into sharp focus.

Follow-up: Choose four other moments in time to freeze in the novel and delineate them using the steps above.

Conclusion: Here is where you apply your powers of observation. Give your protagonist the same awareness of the world that you have, or maybe one that is keener!


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