A good writer's manual is worth every penny if it actually helps you become a better writer. I've featured several of them here on my blog, one of which is: Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maas. If you don't own a copy, let me add that Mr. Maass isn't a top North American agent for nothing.
Choosing a random chapter this week I opened the book to Inner Change. Good choice. I'm nearing the end of the second draft of my WIP: Omatiwak: Woman Who Cries, the sequel to Broken But Not Dead. Mr. Maass writes that if I show my two main protagonists Sally Warner, wife of the murder victim, and Corporal Danny Killian, widower and investigator in charge of the case, grow and change, I increase the odds of producing the breakout novel. Good point. So, how do I do that? More importantly how do you?
Here's a snippet of what Donald Maass thinks will work:
1. Find an early scene when your protagonist is talking to a main character.
2. Write a paragraph on how s/he sees that particular character.
3. Move forward in the story and show how s/he see this same character (or place) differently.
Mr. Maass goes on to say that inner change weaved through the plot strengthens the structure and appeal of the story. He says to ask yourself these questions: How does your protagonist see himself change through the story? How do other characters see him? What changes occur?
As in life, everyone changes.
Remember the 1967 blockbuster To Sir With Love? If you were asked today why you think that movie is a classic, what would you say? That its appeal is due to idealistic teacher Mark Thackeray's (Sidney Poitier) experience and affect on a bunch of rambunctious white students from the slums of London's East End? The changes in how his students see him and how Thackeray sees himself are what drives the story.
What about the growth and change of Tom Hank's character in Cast Away?
Or Nick Carraway's vision of Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby? Can you write a paragraph on how these characters changed?
I'd like to recommend another classic. Rent a copy of On The Waterfront to see how Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) starts off as a washed out fighter and envolves into one of cinema's most endearing heroes.
Great writing is about recognizing what makes great storytelling.