November 18th, 2009

Wright's Writing Corner: Writing the Breakout Novel, Part Two – My Favorite Exercise

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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