A Book of Lessons

The amount of writing advice books I own is kind of embarrassing. I won’t say the exact number, but let me just say that they fill most of two small bookcases. Some of them I’ve only cracked open to flip through the pages. Others, I’ve gone through each page and highlighted passages as I read.

One of those books that I highlighted a lot was literary agent Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel, which happens to have a companion workbook. I’ve done a few of the exercises in the workbook, and I figured that I’d try out another one.

So, here goes nothing.

Adding Heroic Qualities

1. Who are your personal heroes? Write down the name of one.
It’s hard to choose. I could list fictional heroes for the rest of the day. Atticus Finch is one, and so is Sherlock Holmes. As for people in the real world, I’d have to say NASCAR star Mark Martin or writer Stephen King. But I have to chose one, so I’ll say Mark Martin.

2. What makes this person a hero or heroine to you? What is his or her greatest heroic quality? Write that down.
Mark Martin always  owns up to his mistakes. If he wrecks other cars, he apologizes and takes the blame. But he also races the other drivers like they race them. If they race dirty, then he will give it back just as good as he gets it. So his greatest heroic quality would have to be a tie between owning up to his mistakes and playing fair yet not being taken advantage of.

3. What was the moment in time in which you first became aware of this quality in your hero/heroine? Write that down.
I don’t remember the exact race I realized that Mark Martin owned up to his mistakes and played fair but wouldn’t let other drivers take advantage of him. It would have been during an interview after a wreck. He made a mistake, and he admitted it right into the microphone. He apologized to the other drivers involved. As for that he plays fair, I remember it was during a race when he was battling Kyle “Rowdy” Busch for the lead. Kyle banged  into Mark, and Mark banged right back. Then Mark raced another driver, Carl Edwards, cleanly a few races later when Carl raced him clean. Both instances were when Mark was in the middle of what he did best, racing.

4. Assign that quality to your protagonist. Find a way for he or she actively to demonstrate that quality, even in a small way, in his or her first scene. Make notes, starting now.

  • Julie realizes that she personally made a mistake in not going into a hotel room in order to confirm that there was plenty of blood for a particular, demanding vampire guest
  • She takes the blood up to the room and faces the angry vampire instead of putting the responsibility on one of her employees
  • She confronts an old, powerful vampire, threatening him with the repercussions from her family after he threatens her

That certainly got the creative juices flowing inside my head. I’m liking how Julie is starting to shape up, and I think I might have start plotting this novel after I finish the storyboard for King’s Shadow.

Do you have any writing exercises you particularly like? Do you have a go-to book of writing advice?

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