Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Got Fire In Your Fiction?

I was one of the few Alley Cats who did not get to go to the ACFW Conference this past weekend. Since I don't feel like I have anything exciting to offer in light of all the wonderful things the Alley Cats have learned, I thought I'd do a repost of what I learned from Donald Maass and one of his books. Here ya go:

Do you ever feel like your story is just the same old story that's been written before? Do you struggle with finding an original plot that's never been done before? Well, I do, and let me say that after re-reading the last chapter in The Fire In Fiction by Donald Maass, I was encouraged.

According to Donald Maass, there really is nothing new under the sun when it comes to basic plots and storylines. Are you writing a mystery? Well, join the crowd who starts off with a murder and ends up with a solved case. Are you writing a love story? Join all the others who write about boy meets girl-boy cannot have girl-but love conquers all and he gets the girl. There is nothing original in basic plot lines. Been there, done that.

So what makes a story unique? YOU!!!!!

Only you have the experiences that you have had. Only you can bring a unique perspective to a basic storyline. The trick is being brave enough to open yourself up to what is real and honest in your life and using that in your writing. We all have experiences that have shaped our world view and how we deal with life. If we can be honest enough bring it into our writing, our stories will come alive.

Donald Maass says, "Finding the power buried in your novel...is about finding you: your eyes, experience, understanding, and compassion. Ignore yourself and your story will be weak. Embrace the importance of what you have to share with the rest of us and you have the beginning of what makes novels great."

Maass goes on to lead you into finding that unique perspective. Take common experiences and bring out the compassion and understanding to those shared experiences. For example, many people hate their day jobs and you can bring your perspective to that experience to lead the reader to relate and "get" your take on it.

Of course, then we have uncommon experiences. Where were you during 9/11? It is the same event, but everyone experienced that day in a different place and a different way. Some had family die that day. Some slept through it. Some came out of the building alive. Some watched it unfold from their office. Each person brings a different way of looking at the same thing. Use that in your writing!

I believe it is Francine Rivers who says she takes her life experiences...what she is dealing with...what the Lord is teaching her at the time...to write her stories. And oh, what powerful books she writes! They speak to the heart the reader because she brings her heart into them.

What do you want readers to come away with when they read your book? What truth do you want people to know? What theme needs to be shouted to the world? Be honest. Be real. Let your experiences, your take on life, and your heart come through your writing.

I will leave you with a quote from Donald Maass's The Fire In Fiction:
"Having something to say, or something you wish us to experience, is what gives your novel its power. Identify it. Make it loud. Do not be afraid of what's burning in your heart. When it comes through on the page, you will be a true storyteller."

QUESTION: Is it easy for you to open up and be honest in your writing with your unique experiences?

This post is brought to you by
 Sherrinda Ketchersid

Sherrinda is a minister's wife and mother to three giant sons and one gorgeous daughter. A born and bred Texan, she writes historical romance filled with fun, faith, and forever love.


Paula Mowery said...

I like Fire In Fiction because it is very practical. After each section there are "activities" you can put into practice immediately in your WIP. Maas not only gives you the theory but shows how to use it. Only one disclaimer for this book - it isn't Christian in nature. Several examples from novels have profanity.

Julia M. Reffner said...

No, its definitely not easy. Its like pulling teeth, but if I don't do it God has showed me I might as well not be writing. Great post, Sherrinda! Great stuff to share!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Paula, you are so right! It has great application exercises that help you really understand the principles. And thanks for the disclaimer. Maass does use examples that are not from Christian publishers. :)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Oh Julia, I just love your beautiful heart. I love how you listen to God and follow Him wholeheartedly. You are awesome!