Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Writing Prompt Time!

Donald Maass is the author of WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL, THE FIRE IN FICTION, and other helpful books for fiction writers. He is also the president of Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York.

For over a month, Don Maass has been tweeting short fiction hints called “Breakout Prompts.” Inspired by the great information he is giving, I have decided to do a series of posts, with each one including one or two of his prompts along with my own thoughts/commentary. If you apply Don Maass’ prompts to your writing, I can guarantee that your novel will greatly improve.

So, without further ado, on the post and the first prompt.

The characters in your novel should be very real to the reader. They need to be multi-dimensional. They need to be multi-layered. Readers must be able to relate to your characters. Your characters should not be perfect, just as we as human beings are not perfect.

Prompt #1: “What’s the worst thing your MC [main character] does? Whom and how does that hurt? Now work backwards, set it up to hurt even more.” #Maass

Think about your own life experiences. Have you ever done something (knowingly or unknowingly) that really hurt another? Has anyone hurt you? Think of the emotions, the feelings, and the rationalizations that accompanied that experience.

Put all of that into your MC and into whoever was hurt by the MC’s actions. Pour the emotion into that scene (or series of scenes). Make it real. Make your readers feel everything with raw intensity.


  1. I agree with your post. Sometimes delving more deeply into the worst possible situations for a character--his behavior, his flaws--helps the reader to relate to them even more. A perfect character is no fun at all. I did here an author also say what is the worst thing you could possibly DO to your MC? What would destroy him/her and could they recover from it? Now, not that you HAVE to do that, but even just having it in the back of your mind will also develop your character more as well.

    Great post. Consider yourself stalked. You are officially in the BEST DARN BLOGS EVER file! I'll be back.


  2. Angela - Absolutely. Delving deep into the emotions through trials, misunderstandings, betrayals, etc., gives a lot more dimension to the MC. There are no perfect humans. So why have perfect characters?

    Thanks for the comment! I look forward to seeing you here again. :)

  3. I defiantly agree with this, however, I have also found that while only having perfect characters in a book can be a recipe for disaster, mixing a few of them in with the imperfect characters also gives the book a great contrast.

    BTW Your blogs are great! I really enjoy reading them. :)

  4. Anon - You are very right. A novel needs good contrast and different types of characters. The main thing is to make sure the characters are multi-dimensional. Flat characters are not appealing.

    Thanks for the comment, and I am so glad you are enjoying the blog! :)

  5. Kristin,
    As always, great post lady! Loved this. I think when we ask the questions it's easier to get "inside" our characters heads. I like to their motivations. And I like to have a mixture of characters. But I love it when they have some relateable flaws.

  6. Thanks, Rebekah! Figuring out our characters - their motivations, their flaws, etc. - is such a fun part of the writing process. And, definitely, the key is allowing our readers to "relate" in some way to those characters.

    Great comment! Thanks for stopping in! :)