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"Hard is not hopeless." - General David Petraeus

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fire In Fiction - Your Character's Impact

I first read The Fire In Fiction a few months ago when it first came out as a follow up to Writing The Breakout Novel (which still stands as my favorite on writing). But yesterday I picked it back up to scan the parts of the book I'd highlighted.

Specifically, pages 27-31, which talk about what makes your character great. On page 31 Mr. Maass says:

"In establishing her [protagonist] at the outset, it is important to look not toward what she will do later in the story but the impact she has on others now...who in your hero's circle already has respect, feels awe, so that we can feel it too?"

I don't know about you, but opening the story is for me the hardest part of a novel. Your first few pages have to accomplish so much. And part of what they have to accomplish is making you care about a character you haven't had time to get to know - which is what Mr. Maass is getting at here.

So I'm curious, for those of you who have read The Fire In Fiction - have you tried this particular exercise - reworking your beginning with this impact exercise in mind, and how did it work for you? I'm going to give it a whirl tonight and see how it goes. Thinking about the possibilities - I wonder if you can show that impact if you are writing a scene from that same protagonist's point of view, or is it better coming from a different character's POV? I think I may try it both ways and see how it pans out.

Have a blessed week of writing!


Lori Benton said...


I'm a fan of writing a scene from different POVs, when necessary. If nothing else, that other POV might reveal something about the protagonist that I hadn't seen. Which sounds a little strange, I suppose, since I'm the writer/creator, but it's true in the sense that when I'm deep in POV and writing a scene unexpected attitudes and perspectives seem to pop up out of nowhere. That experience is one of the reasons I keep writing.

I've read The Fire In Fiction. It's my #1 favorite writing craft book right now. I happen to be starting a new historical, and have written the first scene, so I'm contemplating your post seriously (found the link in the ACFW digest loop). My character is returning to a place where no one has seen her for nearly 12 years, most of those who knew her best are dead, and those who aren't are going to be faced with a very different woman than the teenage girl they remember. The first person she meets is a stranger. So, how to show that impact? I've only written the first scene (I'm deep in the plotting stage still), and before I move on I'll be sure that somehow she has made an impact on this other character, even though we aren't seeing her through his eyes, yet. That's for chapter 2.

I appreciate the reminder to skim through TFIF and reread the passages I highlighted. Awesome book, isn't it?

King J's Queen said...

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