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The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface Kindle Edition
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I'm finding all kinds of useful tools in this book, including 34 sets of exercises, usually involving writing or rewriting a scene or chapter in your book to evoke emotion. These exercises are usually divided into ten to twenty steps - this is very detailed.
In reading this book with my trusty yellow high-lighter pen in hand, I not only terminally colored the book bright neon yellow, I’ve filled my notebook with about 40 pages of scrawled ideas that will make my in-progress novel a lot better – and this is before I get to doing the 34 sets of exercises. Seriously, if you read this book with an eye on really learning how to improve your fiction writing, this book is an entire college class’s worth of material (I say that, having taught writing and book/author/publisher promotion as an adjunct prof at four colleges and universities). To really understand all the insights (I’ve been writing professionally since ’72 and I’d never encountered most of these ideas), you have to study the book, taking notes as if each chapter or sub-chapter was a classroom lecture Then, doing justice to the 34 sets of exercises will take months - but that will be time well-spent. This will work best if you have a novel you're working on or have recently finished in draft form. Going through the exercises will make your book measurably better. Which is why this is unlike any how-to writing book I’ve ever encountered.
Bottom Line: If you're serious about this book, you'll learn a lot.
One final note. Don Maass also uses examples from classic and current books- these are presented as icons of successful emotional impact (he doesn't find fault, but finds positive examples). My favorite is To Kill a Mockingbird, but he cites others that had such impact that I've ordered them from Amazon.
If you want your characters to be more than cardboard, and want your readers to respond emotionally, get this book and make it your study-guide.
Surely, I thought, there must be a book or two on how to write books? I can't possibly be the only person in the world who can't pound out best-selling first drafts in six weeks, right? Right?
The universe sighed and shook its head. "Oh, child...."
And so I have spent the past year reading every book I can get my hands on regarding everything from voice to POV, from syntax to context, from showing to telling, from snowflakes to arcs. I discovered there is more fine-tuning of technical aspects in writing than there is in ice-dancing a Russian ballet. Still, something was missing.
"But universe," I whined, "I want to take people on a journey. I want them to feel like they're on an emotional rollercoaster. No one talks about that, so am I just some touchy-feely, over-the-top idealist who needs to turn it down a notch or five?"
The universe answered by chucking this book at my head.
The first thing I gleaned from this book was that I wasn't flawed but rather I had been inherently right in my need to write from the heart. I learned that my characters can't be real until I give them that spark of life that comes from me. I learned I wasn't wrong in what I wanted to accomplish.
What I did learn was how to accomplish it.
Like "Bird by Bird", this book was a game changer for me. The examples given clearly demonstrated the techniques being discussed. The assignments, as they were, helped me explore aspects of my characters and my story that I had always felt were there, but hidden. I now have more avenues available to develop a deeper, more meaningful journey for the characters and the readers. This book will be close by, a constant reference, as I finish my first draft and happily begin my second.
If you enjoy books on writing craft, then this is one you will treasure. Where others teach you how to write with your head, this one will show you how to write with your heart.
Thank you, Mr. Maass.
As a longtime carpenter, I liken it to someone having a sound competency with power tools and construction techniques being offered a set of fine woodworking tools, along with revealing lessons on intricate joinery and working with the grain and density of various substrates.
I’ve known for some time that I want more for my stories than to simply entertain, or to keep the pages turning for readers. I want to achieve more. I want readers to feel something. As Maass says in the early going of this book: “…[R]eaders fundamentally want to feel something, not about your story, but about themselves. They want to play. They want to anticipate, guess, think, and judge. They want to finish a story and feel competent. They want to feel like they’ve been through something. They want to connect with your characters and live their fictional experience, or believe that they have.”
As a reader, that’s what I want. And so, as a writer I aspire to creating stories that offer that kind of connection, and thereby, the kind of experience I seek as a reader. Thanks to Donald Maass, we all have access to the tools and techniques to practice as we strive toward emotional mastery in storytelling.