In his Writing the Breakout Novel books, agent Donald Maass has many good suggestions and exercises, but there is one that stands out to me above the rest because it is a discover as basic as shading in art.
At some point in the past, there was a guy who invented the technique of shading. Somebody—or maybe a couple of people at different times—said, “Hey, if you add shading here, it makes it seem like the sun is over there.” And, in fact, it does. A simple technique, adding a bit of darkness all on the same side, and suddenly you have an illusion of light on the other side.
Even more importantly, you have an illusion of three-dimensions.
I do not know if Maass invented his technique, or if he borrowed it from someone else, but in his book, Maass puts his finger on what it is that makes a written character three-dimensional.
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