In the next several months, I'm doing the exercises from Donald Maas's book Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook here on my blog. I'm convinced that these exercises will help me put some spark back into my manuscript Omatiwak: Woman Who Cries, thus helping me improve upon Broken But Not Dead with my editor Leanne Kruger. I hope you'll join along and apply these exercises to your own work. If you do, let me know how your progress is going. Maybe we can help each other.
Here's how Mr. Maass suggests we do that:
1. Write down the name of someone you consider a hero.
2. Write down as many qualities or actions befitting your personal hero. Qualities or actions that speak of their generosity, courage, determination, strength to overcome adversity, or simple kindness and thoughtfulness towards others.
3, Apply those qualities to your protagonist by opening your story with your protagonist acting out one or some of those qualities so that your reader will instantly recognize his/her heroic attributes.
4. Look for 6 more scenes throughout your story where you can show your character acting or thinking in heroic ways.
Donald Maass reads thousands of manuscripts. What he's suggesting in this first exercise is aimed at helping us get our manuscript through the initial first reading to the acceptance pile.
Think Harry Potter, Clarice Starling, Billy Elliot, Dorian Grey, Will Graham, Charlie Brown, Jason Bourne, Jack Carter, Scarlet Ohara, Oliver Twist, Jesus Christ, to name a few.
After I read and gave this first exercise plenty of thought, I realized the introduction of my protagonist RCMP Corporal Danny Killian was anything but memorable. Danny shows up at the crime scene to begin his investigation. Whoopie. To step things up and introduce my reader to a nice guy, worthy of their time, I took that opening and went one step deeper: I showed ...
Danny parks outside the door of the scene of the crime, but instead of immediately going inside, sits for a moment to face his grief and regain the mindset. He's more than normally distraught over the death of his wife because it's their seventh anniversary. He grieves for her, mourns the circumstances of her death, acknowledges that this grief may never cease, then sets it aside and goes inside.
It's a little more elaborate than that, but I hope you get my drift. Now, try this exercise yourself and let me now how it went.