Studying Under Maass (Part 3)

maass-bookBy now, I think I’m the best prerelease salesman literary agent Donald Maass can have. And, in return, he’s given me tons of material to put in my blog along with great ideas for my novella-in-progress, Kayla’s Challenge. 

In Part 1 of this series, I took some of the deep, penetrating questions he asked us about our WIPS and characters and applied them to Kayla to illustrate what her true underlying conflict is. In Part 2, I shared some of his discussion about the mood of the environment Kayla finds herself in.

Today, I’m going to explore Kayla’s weakness a little more. Weakness feeds conflict; conflict creates great characters. And, as Mr. Maass said: “Plot and story are different. Plot is event; story is character transition.”

So I’m ready to play with my character {cue ominous grin and wicked hand rub}.

Here’s the recap:

  • I write about relationships and the need to forgive and be forgiven, because all relationships can hurt you at one time or another.
  • In Kayla’s Challenge, twenty-four-year-old Kayla’s painful relationship is between her and her controlling parents.
  • Kayla is going to leave her home in Savannah, Georgia and make her way west. Along the way, she’ll learn several lessons about herself and her relationship with her folks, one of which will occur when she stops to eat at either a breakfast diner, an ice cream shop, or a restaurant–whatever environment will best contrast with her mood.

Now, I’m going to play with her weakness/flaw/bad habit (Maass’s labels, not mine).

So, what is the character flaw of someone who always gives in to controlling parents? Is she basically a weak person? Weak personality? Needs a spine? We can work with that to begin with, but—going deeper—why is she weak? Is she afraid, or is she just too busy having fun to care? Maybe she’s simply accustomed to taking orders from others and never thought to take responsibility for herself.

Whatever it is, Maass shows us how to play with that flaw.

You, the author, need to know where the flaw came from—the why of it—how it presents itself, and who will point it out to her.  As you are writing, you present the flaw in action, in Kayla’s case, I’ll show her being controlled to the point that she says enough!

Kayla will have an internal mechanism that will counter her pliability toward her controlling parents: spontaneity. She’ll be impetuous, impulsive. That mechanism will kick in big time when she finally decides she’s had enough (and it will be the source for the humor in my story). It’ll be the external symptom of her internal flaw/conflict.

After I illustrate that, according to Maass, it’ll be time to show:

  • the worst thing that can happen because of her flaw,
  • who tells her about it
  • how she’ll react to the revelation—Epiphany? Denial?
  • what she’ll do differently to overcome it
  • how all her attempts to overcome it fail.

Confronting and overcoming her flaw is just one way for the author to manipulate her character arc. The other is healing—which I’ll show next week.


About Linda W. Yezak

Author/Freelance Editor/Speaker (writing and editing topics).
This entry was posted in Authors, write tips, Writing, Writing How-To Books, Writing Tips and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Studying Under Maass (Part 3)

  1. anemulligan says:

    I like the way you unpacked this part, Linda. Thanks!


  2. You’ve certainly sold me on the book! Great series.


  3. Pingback: Studying Under Maass (Part 4) | Linda W. Yezak

Talk to me--I love comments!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.