Sunday, March 17, 2013

To “Maass” Is a Verb

People who extol verbs, who worship them, revel in them, revere and sanctify them, get mocked. And I don’t care. For writers, and especially writers with even minimal respect for reading or writing poetry, verbs are as good as it gets. No higher honor exists.

Verbs take complex operations and succinctly snare them in a single word: Photosynthesize, reminisce, calculate, mortify, and enunciate. Instead of an entire paragraph—plus a diagram—a handful of letters crystallizes an entire process.

Now of the many wonderful writing theorists and theories out there, very few encapsulate advice in a single word. Yet in book after book, and most especially Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook and the recent Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling, this is precisely what Don Maass accomplishes. Shouldn’t that be a verb?

To Maass: To originate so profoundly and complexly that characterization, plot, outcome, and theme become more credible, convincing, and compelling than the humdrum nature of daily life.

Tip: Teach yourself to Maass from the Maasster himself.

Are you motivated to Maass your manuscript? Here’s how to start.

·         Abandon your first plot choice. While you’re at it, discard many of the next seven or eight plot possibilities. The ninth or tenth one flirts with greatness. Follow that.

·         Unearth hidden similarity. We know painfully well why your protagonist differs from your antagonist. So forget that. How are your protagonist and antagonist practically alike in some invisible yet believable way?

·         Burst boundaries. If you’re literary, don’t just ponder what genre writing can teach you. Admit that your “opposite” can enrich your novel. Let it. Are you a genre writer? Quit dissing that highbrow stuff. Find the way it can texture your novel.

·         Surprise yourself. If you find your own writing predictable, how will your readers perceive it? Replace every obvious emotion, situation, stereotype, and problem. Dig for buried diamonds. If it’s on the surface, everyone else has already seen it.

Tip: The more difficult path is the more original one.

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