Thursday, January 14, 2021

Book Review: The Emotional Craft of Fiction

This is the first time I’ve written a book review before finishing a book. In fact, I’m only a third of the way into it. But I decided to write a review already because the first third is worth the price of the book.

What is the book? Donald Maass’s The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface. (It was published in 2016—I wish I’d read it then.) The purpose of the book is to teach writers how to engage the emotions of the reader, which is very different than merely showing the emotions of a character. Because if we’re honest, we’ve all read novels whose characters experience a major crisis and our response is…a yawn.

So how can we turn a passage from a yawn into a gripping scene?

Unlike many how-to books, Maass does more than tell his readers what needs to be done. He includes examples from published novels whose authors range from Avi to Bradbury to Stephen King to Harper Lee. These examples contextualize the lessons and show writers how to use the techniques successfully. And at the end of each section, Maass provides bullet points of questions and exercises to help a novelist incorporate these techniques into their own work.

I could go on, but honestly, I want to get back to reading the book—and taking notes, which I probably haven’t done since college.

Bottom line, buy the book. Here’s a link.

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