I’ve been meaning to do this for a while: here’s a compilation of the 21 tweets that agent Don Maass sent out on Twitter for 21 days from the end of August, beginning 21 days before the release of his brand-new book on writing craft, Writing 21st Century Fiction. I’ve preordered said book, because judging by the taste I got at the “Writing 21st Century Fiction” workshop in Colorado Springs back in April, it’s going to be amazing.
To steal a line from this sneak peek over at Writer’s Digest:
The notion of writing fiction that is highly personal and filled with conflict, emotion, and intensity is at the core of Don’s book. His approach to fiction writing is one that encompasses both those authors seeking commercial success, as well as those who write for the love of the craft; that is, literary writers.
My goal with my own writing is to try to nail this combination: novels that have both a plot and emotional resonance.
So here are the tweets, in order (the numbers follow on from his last set of breakout prompts — go read ‘em all! I collected Don’s Writing a Breakout Novel prompts here, last year):
81 What does your genre get wrong? Fix it. What do fans of your genre expect? Sell them something else, or add something extra
High impact fiction springs from your insights, convictions, righteous anger. And so–
82 Computer crash! House fire! Your WIP is gone, all backups fried. Write why your story matters, give that passage to your MC.
The inner journey can start with a secret, shame or regret. Try this…
83 What was your MC’s worst mistake? What has she never told anyone? Who was wronged? Weigh down your MC with that.
The inner journey can involve other people. Here’s one way to do that…
84 Whom does your MC most need for forgive? Following a catharsis, make forgiveness possible then enact it with a symbol.
The inner journey also finds outward expression. Here’s how…
85 What’s your MC’s strongest emotion in your story? Imagine your MC is mute. How does she physically express what’s inside?
A true inner journey takes us to larger truths. That’s true in your story too…
86 What larger truth does your MC learn? Earlier, make it a mystery, an impossibility or the opposite of what your MC believes.
Strong story events require digging below your MC’s surface. Try this…
87 In any MC scene, ask: What does your MC not want to admit, acknowledge or face right now? Force it on him. Let it hurt.
Build drama by making your MC’s screw ups even more painful. Here’s the method…
88 When your MC makes a mistake, who’s let down? Earlier, build up that character’s high regard of your MC.
You don’t have to write horror to make a climactic setting a place of dread. Try…
89 What’s the place your protagonist must enter at the end? Earlier, make it a place of fear.
Few push their MC’s to true extremes. Lots of ways to do that. Here’s one…
90 What does it mean in this story to die? What’s worse than actual death? Have your MC suffer that.
Standout characters are sharp and observant. Here’s an approach to that…
91 What does your MC see, know or get about people that few others do? Create three demonstrations of that.
Standout antagonists aren’t all-powerful or all-knowing. And so…
92 What’s your antagonist missing? What hasn’t he yet seen, figured out or found? Plant that discovery.
Standout characters face hard truths about themselves, so try this…
93 What does your MC most need to know about herself? Give her 3 reasons not to care…then tear them down.
And in response to a question from a follower: “Plz clarify? 3 reasons why MC SHOULD care about MC’s own self-truth(s)?”, Don said: “Suggesting MC *doesn’t* care–then changes.”
Secondary characters often are under-utilized. A suggestion…
94 Pick an ally of your MC. What’s their shared history? What’s their unshakable trust? Shatter it.
Strong story events spring from inside. Here’s a way to work on that…
95 Who in your story has been cast under a spell? What locks that spell in place, never to be broken? Break it.
Most ms need more story events, more middle. Try these tools…
96 Something’s wrong in your story world. It’s a whirlpool. Who else can be sucked into its vortex? Do it.
97 In your story what love is forbidden? Make it more impossible in 3 ways. Then make it happen.
Day 18 and 19
Strong stories are built of big events and dynamic scenes. Two tools…
98 Imagine that a more fearless writer than you creates an event for your story. What is it? Use it. [I LOVE this one!!]
99 Blah scene? What changes here? Exactly when? How would an outside observer know? Add that.
Beautiful writing is more than pretty words, it’s the play of ideas too. Try this tool…
100 About what is your MC utterly right? Pull the rug. Prove her utterly wrong. Force her to rebuild.
Today Writing 21st Century Fiction ships. Included are 380 tools to enhance your WIP. Here’s one…
101 What’s a moment when everything could change? Pause. Explore. What does it feel like to be weightless? Add it.