Writing a Breakout Novel

9 09 2010

Gotta love my CPs (critique partners, for those of you unfamiliar with the acronym). Where else would I find such a great group of cheerleaders. They keep me going on my manuscripts, subtly pressuring me to complete a new chapter for each critique. And it works.

Sure some chapters need a lot of work, but my CPS are always generous with their crits (and their praise, so I don’t get discouraged). And sometimes they do something extra special that makes my heart race. Last night was a case in point. One generous member of the Piedmont Plotters gifted all of us in the group with Donald Maass’s (yikes, all those s‘s? But it’s what CMoS says is correct, & I always follow Chicago Manual of Style) Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. How cool is that? I’m guessing we’re all going to be breakout novelists soon. Can’t help but be.

According to the promo, we’ll “learn to: – Create a powerful and sweeping sense of time and place – Develop larger-than-life characters – Sustain a high degree of narrative tension from start to finish – Weave sub-plots into the main action – Explore universal themes that will interest a large audience.”

From the first lesson, which you can see here, your protagonist needs to have at least one heroic quality. Try the exercises on page 12 and see what heroic qualities you value.

I couldn’t resist adding more than one person I admire, but it turned out they all had similar qualities. My list included Mother Teresa, Gandhi, MLK Jr., and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. I’m drawn to people who fight for human rights, who fight convention, and dare to be different. I was intrigued to find that the protagonists of all my books share these qualities.

Two other things that resonate with me are selfless giving and nonviolent protests. Interestingly enough, my main characters don’t always use peaceful means to reach their goals. And sometimes (a character flaw, perhaps?) they’re far from selfless. It definitely set me thinking.

What about you? Who are your heros/heroines? And why are you drawn to them? Do your book characters reflect those values?

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2 responses

9 09 2010
Dr. Tom Bibey

One of my big heros was Dr. Indie Jenkins, the lead character in “The Mandolin Case.” He was a part Choctaw Indian bluegrass fiddler who smoked and drank too much, but he was honest and took good care of his patients.

Dr. B

10 09 2010
lje1

Sounds like an interesting character. One with both heroic qualities and some character flaws to balance them out.

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