The Fire in Fiction

Passion, purpose and techniques to make your novel great.
Publish date:

The Fire in Fiction

by Donald Maass
Writer's Digest Books, 2009
ISBN-13: 978-1-58297-506-1
ISBN-10: 1-58297-506-X
$17.99 paperback, 272 pages

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Read an Excerpt!

Find out how to develop your story around its most pivotal moments in this excerpt from Chapter Two: Characters Who Matter.

About the Book
We’ve all read them: novels by our favorite authors that disappoint. Uninspired and lifeless, we wonder what happened. Was the author in a hurry? Did she have a bad year? Has he lost interest altogether?

Something similar is true of a great many unpublished manuscripts. They are okay stories that never take flight. They are unoriginal. They don’t grip the imagination, let alone the heart. They merit only a shrug and a polite dismissal by agents and editors. It’s almost as if the author is afraid to truly commit to the story.

It doesn’t have to be that way. In The Fire in the Fiction, successful literary agent and author Donald Maass shows you not only how to infuse your story with deep conviction and fiery passion, but how to do it over and over again. The book features:

• Techniques for capturing a special time and place, creating characters whose lives matter, nailing multiple-impact plot turns, making the supernatural real, infusing issues into fiction, and more.
• Story-enriching exercises at the end of every chapter to show you how apply the practical tools just covered to your own work.
• Rich examples drawn from contemporary novels as diverse as The Lake House, Water for Elephants, and Jennifer Government to illustrate how various techniques work in actual stories.

Plus, Maass introduces an original technique that any novelist can use any time, in any scene, in any novel, even on the most uninspired day … to take the most powerful experiences from your personal life and turn those experiences directly into powerful fiction.

Tap into The Fire in Fiction, and supercharge your story with originality and spark!

About the Author
Donald Maass heads the Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York City, which represents more than 150 novelists and sells more than 150 novels every year to publishers in America and overseas. He is a past president of the Association of Authors Representatives, Inc., and is the author of several books of interest to fiction writers: The Career Novelist (now available as a free download from his agency’s Web site), Writing the Breakout Novel, and Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. His Web site is

Table of Contents

Status Seekers and Storytellers
Playing With Fire

Chapter 1: Protagonists vs. Heroes

Average Joes, Jane Does, and Dark Protagonists
Cutting Heroes Down to Size
Protagonists vs. Heroes
Practical Tools

Chapter 2 : Characters Who Matter
Practical Tools

Chapter 3: Scenes That Can’t Be Cut
Outer and Inner Turning Points
Striding Forward, Falling Back
First Lines, Last Lines
The Tornado Effect
Practical Tools

Chapter 4 : The World of the Novel

Linking Details and Emotions
Measuring Change Over Time
History is Personal
Seeing Through Characters’ Eyes
Conjuring a Milieu
Setting as a Character
Practical Tools

Chapter 5: A Singular Voice
Giving Characters Voice
Details and Delivery
Different Ways of Relating a Story
Practical Tools

Chapter 6: Making the Impossible Real

The Skeptical Reader
Making Characters Afraid
Focus on Villains
Verisimilitude: Pseudoscience, Genuine Facts
Scary Monsters
Practical Tools

Chapter 7: Hyperreality
The Secrets of Satire
Funny People, Funny Places
Sending Up Society
Funny Voices
Practical Tools

Chapter 8: Tension All the Time
Tension in Dialogue
Tension in Action
Tension in Exposition
Transforming Low-Tension Traps
Tension Where There Is None
Practical Tools

Chapter 9: The Fire in Fiction

Our Common Experience
Our Uncommon Experiences
The Moral of the Story
The Fire in Fiction
Practical Tools

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