The Fire in Fiction

I bought Don Maass’ book The Fire in Fiction after reaching a kind of plateau in writing EMPIRE (my WIP). I don’t normally buy books like this because it never really occurred to me; however, I needed this metaphorical kick in the pants from this book. If you write, you need this book. After all, I was trained to think critically about literature in academic papers (mostly from the Romantic period), not create fiction. My novel Why Aren’t You Sweet Like Me? already had substantial plot and character development (as I used letters, history, and first-person testimony) before I began the writing process, so how do I develop new characters from an organic idea? Don Maass has the answer for that.

I needed help because I have never done something like this (though getting a book deal boosted my confidence in it). Would you walk into a job without any knowledge of how to do it? While I made a pretty good foundation, I was clueless about how to build the rest of the story (even with heavy structuring and outlining…it just wasn’t fitting together). And just because you think you can write a book doesn’t mean that you can’t use guidance; even though I’m almost through with my second novel doesn’t mean that I should pursue *my idea of* perfection. I’m going to Don Maass’ seminar tomorrow at the Pikes Peak Writing Conference (and I’ll have dinner with Don Maass afterward), which I am sure will blow my mind. Because I don’t want to infringe on his work, I want to just give you an insight as to how this book has helped me.

  1. For instance, when writing about the MC’s nemesis, the writer needs to ensure that he or she is not simply telling the audience to hate them. Yeah, that’s not terribly convincing. The villain must be fearsome in and of himself. The villain must be right. Try to get your reader to empathize with him.
  2. Lighten dark situations with humor; sure, the humor can be self-deprecating, but you need to break up the seriousness.
  3. Your hero needs to be cut down to size: the MC must have instantly redeeming qualities, reasons for living, flaws, hot buttons, annoyances.
  4. Make suspense urgent, but allow the MC to feel conflicting emotions to make it interesting, which avoids monotony and predictability.
  5. Be sure to visit the Donald Maass agency site and take a look at his writing prompts (there are some great writing worksheets in The Fire in Fiction as well).

Now I must get things ready for tomorrow (as I’ll be in the class from 9-5). Also, my first book signing is on Saturday and I am like a little kid with a cupcake!

Oh! and the giveaway of my book ends Saturday, too! You can enter on


3 thoughts on “The Fire in Fiction

  1. This book ranks as one of my writing bibles. I don’t agree with everything in it (as with just about every book on writing I own), but for the most part, it’s spot on in every way. Very informative and helpful read, and it gave me the kick in the pants I needed last year, when I didn’t know what the hell I was doing and my words had started to stagnate and lose vibrance.

    Absolutely awesome that you got to see him in person! I won’t say I’m jealous (but I am a bit), but that is a great oppoturnity for you! I hope meeting him turned out both inspirational and helpful for your writing. You are so lucky to be able to go to Pikes Peak. I’ve wanted to for years, but can’t afford the plane ticket and hotel room. Was it awesome? Did you pick up any juicy tidbits from Maas that weren’t in the book?

    • It was amazing! I listened to his seminar for 8 hours where I typed 17 pages of notes (had lunch with him) and then I had an awesome dinner with him and a few other writers. He’s so interesting and thought provoking. He asked several questions that are going to be in his new book, including:
      “If you had to cut out 20 pages, what would you take out?”
      “If you had 50 more pages after the ending, what would happen?”
      “Take one of the pivotal scenes in your manuscript. What is the worst possible thing that could happen?”

      You really need to come for the next one! I’m spoiled because I live 5 minutes from the hotel where they hold PPWC but it would be worth it to stay for the entire conference (especially if you get a pitch appointment!)

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