“The story is already inside you. The tools are just to get to it. It’s all there.”
For seven and a half hours on April 14, 2012, Donald Maass provided 106 SinCNE members and their guests, with tool after tool after tool to help them get to their stories.
Part motivational speaker, part master craftsman, part shrink to the writer and part shrink to the characters, Maass pushed the mystery authors assembled in the ballroom at the Dedham Hilton to work harder, dig deeper, think more, feel more and commit it all to the page. “In your next draft, put it in, put it down,” he urged. “The harder it is, the more you need to do it.”
Cautioning against the “genre box,” of easy emotions, predictable plot and cardboard characters,” Maass stated that “most characters in most manuscripts do not feel passionately enough.”
What is it your protagonist has sworn not to do?
What is the one thing she hopes never to experience?”
What is the worst thing?
And having done it, what does your protagonist now let go of? What has she been holding inside that can now come out? What is the explosion?
Asked about writing a series and “putting a character through the wringer every time,” Maass answered, “Put something sharp and painful in every book. You don’t need to save, you need to spend. There will always be more in your bag of tricks. By the time you write the next book, you will know more than you knew before.”
Asked about breaking faith with reader expectations (the famous kill the cat question), Maass stated, “Most of you do not need less drama, less turmoil and fewer upset readers, you need more.”
“When questions, doubt and uneasiness are created in the mind of the reader, the reader most read more.”
Personally, I came away from the workshop revved up and exhausted, brimming with ideas for my work in progress, and freaked out about my ability to implement them. But as Maass said, the ideas are big, but they get implemented in tiny ways page by page.
How was it for all of you?