Tuesday, September 10, 2019


Having devoured two other books written by Donald Maass, I was thrilled to finally read THE EMOTIONAL CRAFT OF FICTION. (I was also quite pleased to read it while lounging in my hammock up in the mountains, finding it fascinating how the book's cover went so well with nature's surrounding trees.) Scroll on down for my complete review of the book.

by Donald Maass
December 30, 2016 (Writer's Digest Books)
ISBN: 978-1440348372

Description from the Publisher:

While writers might disagree over showing versus telling or plotting versus pantsing, none would argue this: If you want to write strong fiction, you must make your readers feel. The reader's experience must be an emotional journey of its own, one as involving as your characters' struggles, discoveries, and triumphs are for you.

That's where The Emotional Craft of Fiction comes in. Veteran literary agent and expert fiction instructor Donald Maass shows you how to use story to provoke a visceral and emotional experience in readers. Topics covered include:

  • emotional modes of writing
  • beyond showing versus telling
  • your story's emotional world
  • moral stakes
  • connecting the inner and outer journeys
  • plot as emotional opportunities
  • invoking higher emotions, symbols, and emotional language
  • cascading change
  • story as emotional mirror
  • positive spirit and magnanimous writing
  • the hidden current that makes stories move

Readers can simply read a novel...or they can experience it. The Emotional Craft of Fiction shows you how to make that happen.

About the Author:

Donald Maass is the author of more than 16 novels. He now works as a literary agent, representing dozens of novelists in the SF, fantasy, crime, mystery, romance and thriller categories. He speaks at writer's conferences throughout the country and lives in New York City.

My Review:

If you're wanting to improve your skills as a writer, read books written by Donald Maass. 

One of the elements I love best about his books is when he includes exercises to put principles into practice. In THE EMOTIONAL CRAFT OF FICTION, these "exercises" are each titled "Emotional Mastery." There are 34 different ones throughout the book, and there is even a checklist in the back of the book to mark your progress completing the exercises.

Within "Emotional Mastery 8: The Meaning of Everything" Maass writes: "Choose some dry information that must be imparted for your story to make sense. Who has this knowledge? How does that character see these facts as no one else does? ... What is good, bad, worrisome, reassuring, or in some other way revealing about these facts? What does your character love or hate about what these facts are saying? What would she change about this information if possible? What would he change about himself? ... Don't be afraid of slowing the pace. When you deepen the meaning of things, no one will complain" (page 67).

An additional highlight of this book is the chapter at the end: "The Writer's Emotional Journey." While I loved the entire book, this chapter had me nodding my head and saying, "Yes." 

Maass writes: "Many fiction writers do not feel worthy of their calling. ... When writers approach their craft that way, it shows. You can sense when fiction is masking cynicism or anger. ... The spirit that you bring to your writing desk either infects your pages or enlivens them. ... How you feel inside is how we will feel in reading. ... In some ways the most important work you do in writing your novel is the work you do on yourself. ... your fundamental outlook, your positive spirit, your embrace of goodness, your faith in humanity. It shows in ... granting strength to your characters and filling their hearts with expectation" (pages 177-178).

I could continue to quote passages and sing the praises of this book, or I could simply say: Go read this book if you want to improve your skills as a writer. Oh, wait, that's how I started this review! Go. Now. Read. Practice. Improve. And ...

Enjoy the gift of being called a writer.

1 comment:

  1. Well worth reading, I have a copy, together with other authors' books, people who have set out to help writers improve their skills.