While I've been working on my new story, The Puzzle Box, which is the second installment in my series about dragons, kings and a little bit of magic (as in time travel), I've come across an interesting workbook that I thought I'd tell you about.
The workbook is Writing The Breakout Novel Workbook, by Donald Maass. I bought my workbook from Amazon.com. I'm stressing workbook, because he also wrote a book by the title: Writing The Breakout Novel. I didn't have the money to by both books, so I chose the workbook because it has exercises with each lesson and I wanted to be able to take the lesson and use it. The workbook also has all the writing exercises that Mr. Maass leads in his workshops by the same name.
In this book it tells you how to read a novel like a writer, understanding the technique and motivation behind every choice an author makes. You will find help making your characters more memorable, adding layers of plot and weaving them together, discovering themes hidden in your work, using time and place more effectively and more.
Sound like a sales pitch yet? I hope not, because this book isn't for everyone. If you don't have the time to sit down and do the exercises, which require some application, then you won't get to the gold in this book. And that comes from you. When you learn from your own writing, as you push out those exercises.
Here's an example:
Adjusting the Volume
Step 1: At random in the middle of your manuscript, pick anything at all than your protagonist thinks, says, or does. Heighten it. Make it bigger, funnier, more shocking, more vulgar, more out of bounds, more over the top, more violent, more insightful, more wildly romantic, more active, more anything. Make the change in your manuscript.
Step 2: Take that same action, thought, or line of dialogue, and make it smaller. Tone it down; understate it; make it quieter, more internal, more personal, more ironic, more offhand, less impassioned, barely noticeable. Make the change in your manuscript.
Follow-up work: Select twenty-four more points in the story where you can heighten or diminish something that your protagonist does, says, or thinks.
Conclusion: Larger-than-life characters powerfully attract us. Why? They are surprising, vital, and alive. They do not let life slip by. Every moment counts. Every day has meaning. How can you give that kind of life force to your protagonist? Turn up the volume on what she says, thinks, and does.
(From: Page 35, Heightening Larger-Than-Life Qualities)
What are you reading? Does it help with your current project?