Wednesday, May 30, 2012

On Character (Writing the Breakout Novel)

Spent some time last night reading through Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass (which I recommend!), namely the section on character. It's really insightful, so I thought I'd share a few juicy tidbits:

On Character Sympathy
"I would like to suggest that there are two character qualities that leave a deeper, more lasting and powerful impression of a character than any other: forgiveness and self-sacrifice." (p. 121-122)

On Character Dimension
"A character viewed from different angles is automatically a richer creation." (p. 127)

On Villains
"Don't you find the most interesting villains are the ones whose motives we can understand? The ones who are made evil by circumstances, rather than the ones who simply are born bad? Depth of character in your opposition will make your writing more richly textured." (p. 130)


  1. I agree with the second point most definitely. On Character Dimension, Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen (won a National Book Award) is one of my favorites because of this technique.

    1. Ooh, I'll have to look into it. Thanks!

  2. Oooh...Donald Maass always has great advice. I follow him on twitter.

  3. I'm especially prone to the tidbit shared regarding the villains. It's those villains that we understand, in a sort of way, that make the tug of war with them and the protagonist that much more profound.

  4. I love that book! I think it's such a great writing book that I actually took out a highlighter and reread it so that I could mark my favorite parts.

  5. I need this book. I love the villans part!! Snape, anyone?? :)

  6. Charlie, that second point is also brought out in Writer's Digest Novel Writing Handbook. It is a point that has stuck with me in my manuscripts, so I always give the villain a good reason for being evil. :)