THE FIRE IN THE FICTION was written by super-agent Donald Maass. Donald Maass founded the Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York in 1980. His agency sells more than 150 novels every year to major publishers in the U.S. and overseas. He is the author of The Career Novelist (1996), Writing the Breakout Novel (2001), Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook (2004), The Fire in Fiction (2009) and The Breakout Novelist (2011). He is a past president of the Association of Authors’ Representatives, Inc.
Here are five things I learned about writing from reading this book (some of these are direct quotes or quotes with minor paraphrasing):
* Merely describing the setting of a novel or individual scene is boring. Readers often skim this part. Combining the setting with the emotions of a character are what make the scene come alive. Filter the setting through the eyes of the character. What does the character notice about the setting? How does he feel about it? What does it remind him of?
* Each scene must contain micro-tension. This is mainly evoked by emotional conflict. That is, inner conflict within the character. Description itself does nothing to create tension. Tension comes from within the people in the landscape. A house is just a house until it is occupied by people with problems.
* One way to create tension with conflicting emotions is to consider what the character is feeling – then think about the opposite emotion.
* Power in fiction comes from touching readers. Touching readers comes from your own compassion. Merely writing well is not enough. Fine prose is empty unless it is charged with your own deep feeling.
* Stories that stretch our mind and characters who challenge our view of ourselves are the ones we remember. They are the stuff of which classics are made. So start by making sure you put yourself in your novel: your views, your hurts, your questions, your convictions, your crazy-weird take on it all. Give all that to your characters or simply give it to yourself when you write. If you are worried that your plot will feel calculated or contrived to your readers, don’t. Actually the more you let your passionate self inform your novel, the more it will strike your readers with a moral force.
You can buy the book here.