Monday, June 19, 2006

Lesson 1: Adding Heroic Qualities

Good Monday, The reappearance of my blogging buddy Bernita has led me to a new has nothing to do with putting people's pictures on milk cartons...although I did entertain the idea for a, uh...for an hour...oh never mind!

The subject is Donald Maass' Writing a Breakout Novel. Now the man knows his business! He is the President of the Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York, and he sells more than a hundred books a year to publishers.

What I am going to endeavor to do here is present truncated versions of each of the lessons in the workbook. Let's get started on Section One: Character Development

If your character sucks, nobody will like them. That's not to say that they can't have problems. But how much tolerance do you have for somebody who is constantly the negative charge on the magnetic, and wallowing around in the mud of self-pity.

What you've got to do is have the character lift him/her self above their curcumstances like a phoenix rising from the ashes. How do you do that?

You've got to start from the beginning and give us a reason not to just throw the book at the wall! Do you feel sympathy for the protag? Do you see yourself in them? Do you want them to win?

Quickly evoking that kind of identification with a protag is one of the secrets of brakeout fiction! ALERT! Most manuscripts don't manage to do this!


1.Who are your personal heroes?

2.What are their greatest qualities?

3.When did you first become aware of their qualities?

4.Assign that quality to your protag. Find a way, even a small way to demonstrate that in their first scene.

Follow-up: Prior to the climax, find six more points where your protag can demonstrate heroic qualities, even in a small way.

Conclusion: Demonstrate special qualities right away, and you will immediately turn your protagonist into a hero or heroine...a character whose outcome matters.

Questions and comments are welcome!

And I didn't forget the jockularity for the day!

A Blonde Goes On Who Wants To Be A Millionaire

Regis: "Barbara, you've done very well so far - $500,000 and one lifeline left -- phone a friend.

The next question will give you the top prize of One Million dollars if you get it right ... but if you get it wrong you will drop back to $32,000 -- are you ready?"

Barbara: "Sure, I'll have a go!"

Regis: "Which of the following birds does not build it's own nest?

Is it........





Remember Barbara its worth 1 Million dollars."

"I think I know who it..but I'm not 100%...

No, I haven't got a clue. I'd like to phone a friend Regis, just to be sure.

Regis: "Yes, who, Barbara, do you want to phone?

Barbara: "I'll phone my friend Maggie back home in Birmingham."


Maggie (also a blonde): "Hello..."

Regis: "Hello Maggie, its Regis here from Who Wants to be a Millionaire-I have Barbara here and she is doing really well on $500,000, but needs your help to be a Million.

The next voice you hear will be Barbara's and she'll read you the question.

There are 4 possible answers and 1 correct answer and you have 30 seconds to answer -- fire away Barbara."

Barbara: "Maggie, which of the following birds does not build it's own nest? Is it:





Maggie: "Oh Gees, Barbara that's simple.....It's a Cuckoo."

Barbara: "You think?"

Maggie: "I'm sure."

Barbara: " Thanks Maggie." (hangs up)

Regis: "Well, do you want to stick on $500,000 or play on for the Million, Barbara?"

Barbara: "I want to play, I'll go with C-Cuckoo"

Regis: "Is that your final answer?"

Barbara: "It is."

Regis: "Are you confident?"

Barbara: "Yes fairly, Maggie's a sound bet."

Regis: " had $500,000 and you said C-Cuckoo're right! - You have just won ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

Here is your check. You have been a great contestant and a real gambler. Audience please put your hands together for Barbara."


That night Barbara calls round to Maggie and brings her down to a local bar for a celebration drink and, as they are sipping their Champagne, Barbara turns to Maggie and asks "Tell me Maggie, How in God's name did you know that it was the Cuckoo that does not build its own nest?

Maggie: "Listen Barbara, everybody knows that a Cuckoo lives in a clock."


  1. M. C. Pearson said...
    LOL...blondes...oh, wait! I'm blonde! Should I be offended? Nahhh.

    Love the post, Bonnie. Good stuff! So, do you care about Mellie?
    Bonnie S. Calhoun said...
    Yes, I do...she reminds me of a little vixon that I know very well...LOL
    Elizabeth Krecker said...
    Too funny! Love the Donald Maas lessons, thanks for the synopsis! I'll be back for more!
    David Meigs said...
    This looks like it will be an interesting series.

    Looking forward to it.
    Rulan said...
    Hey, this looks like it will be good. Great timing too, seeing as I'm trying to get to know my new protag.

    Great blond joke.
    jel said...
    ha Ha :)

    that was agood joke.

    have a great day!
    Soul Reflections said...
    Ya know, Bon, sometimes I wonder about you. Do you have blonde roots?
    Bernita said...
    Ha, Bonnie...I'm your evil twin....
    Bonnie S. Calhoun said...
    Thnaks to everyone!! Even Debbie..LOL

    Bernita...*insert maniacal laughter here*!
    Bernita said...
    Seriously though,
    this workbook exercise is a great idea, Bonnie.
    Thank you.
    Sandra Ruttan said...
    Great blonde joke!
    Shelley L. MacKenzie said... that joke!

    The series sounds great and I think will be a help. Looking forward to the rest of it.
    Shesawriter said...
    Hey Bonnie!

    I thought I'd come and visit you. Love your blog. I read this book and it was great. And I remember reading the stuff he wrote about the characters being loaded down with negativity. It made me chuckle.

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