16 April 2009

More on Maass

I need to wrap up my comments of Donald Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel, specifically, let's talk about plot. Of course, plot is the events and sequence in the story. What are the five basic plot elements?
  1. a sympathetic character
  2. a problem arises, ideally a complicated conflict
  3. the conflict escalates/gets more complicated
  4. climax
  5. resolution

Short stories should have these 5 elements.

And how about some random tips to finish up? In no particular order:

  • write what you're passionate about and let your characters show your passion
  • infuse yourself in the story using voice
  • protagonists should be larger than life, not fearful,
    have an inner conflict(s) and be transformed by events of the story
  • include subplot(s) that affect the overall story outcome/come together in the end
  • make all non-protagonists do double-duty by playing multiple roles in the protagonist's life
  • and finally, speaking of plot: torture your protagonist: figure out what's the worst thing that can happen to him/her and then make it happen.

Again, short stories would benefit from all these tips.

So, there you have it, what I gleaned from Mr. Maass. I must admit I did not agree with everything he said. What did you glean from him? What did you agree with? Or disagree with?

Do you have any other writing books you recommend?


writtenwyrdd said...

Excellent synopsis of what to include in a story. I think I'll print it up in micro print and tape it to the laptop as a constant reminder.

Betsy Dornbusch said...

I'm not sure about making non-protags doing double duty as a "rule". That could be tough to fit in short stories! I do think characters need to have more purpose than simply revolving around the protagonist. If you consider that every character could have an arc of his/her own, it seems to fix the useless character problem. That arc may or may not appear in the story, but if the author knows the character that well, then they aren't just standing there.

On the subject of characters, my favorite writing book is Elizabeth George's WRITE AWAY.

Deb S said...

Good advice; now to apply it in 7500 words or less. Must tame the beast.

Betsy Dornbusch said...

Cutting characters helps cut words in short stories. Only have the folks you absolutely NEED.

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