October 13, 2009
by Donald Maass
What is missing when a manuscript hugs the wall and refuses to dance? Originality is not the key. It can’t be, otherwise no wounded detective would ever have a chance and every new vampire series would be dead on arrival. Even over-published clichés can sometimes break out and sell big. The same is true of look-alike mainstream and literary fiction.
The issue, then, is not whether a story has a cool new premise. Whether hiking a well-worn trail or blazing uncharted wilderness, when a manuscript succeeds it is invariably fired by inspiration. Passion comes through on the page.
How does that passion get there? Here are some exercises to apply to your novel-in-progress. They are designed to dig up what matters in your story and infuse it in your manuscript in effective—but not obvious—ways.
FIND THE UNCOMMON IN COMMON EXPERIENCE
To get passion into your story, do it through your characters. What angers you can anger them. What lifts them up will inspire us in turn. Even ordinary people can be poets, prophets and saints. That’s true in life, so why not in your fiction?
Here is an exercise designed to discover and utilize what is universal in the experience of your characters, especially when they are regular folk like you and me.
Write down what comes to mind when you read the prompts below.
1. Is your story realistic? Are your characters ordinary people?
2. What in the world of your story makes you angry? What are we not seeing? What is the most important question? What puzzle has no answer? What is dangerous in this world? What causes pain?
3. Where in the world of your story is there unexpected grace? What is beautiful? Who is an unrecognized hero? What needs to be saved?
4. Give your feelings to http://writersdigest.com/article/4-techniques-to-fire-up-your-fiction