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The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write with Emotional Power, Develop Achingly Real Characters, Move Your Readers, and Create Riveting Moral Stakes

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Engage Your Readers with Emotion While writers might disagree over showing versus telling or plotting versus pantsing, none would argue this: If you want to write strong fiction, you must make your readers feel. The reader's experience must be an emotional journey of its own, one as involving as your characters' struggles, discoveries, and triumphs are for you. That's where Engage Your Readers with Emotion While writers might disagree over showing versus telling or plotting versus pantsing, none would argue this: If you want to write strong fiction, you must make your readers feel. The reader's experience must be an emotional journey of its own, one as involving as your characters' struggles, discoveries, and triumphs are for you. That's where The Emotional Craft of Fiction comes in. Veteran literary agent and expert fiction instructor Donald Maass shows you how to use story to provoke a visceral and emotional experience in readers. Topics covered include: emotional modes of writing beyond showing versus telling your story's emotional world moral stakes connecting the inner and outer journeys plot as emotional opportunities invoking higher emotions, symbols, and emotional language cascading change story as emotional mirror positive spirit and magnanimous writing the hidden current that makes stories move Readers can simply read a novel...or they can experience it. The Emotional Craft of Fiction shows you how to make that happen.


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Engage Your Readers with Emotion While writers might disagree over showing versus telling or plotting versus pantsing, none would argue this: If you want to write strong fiction, you must make your readers feel. The reader's experience must be an emotional journey of its own, one as involving as your characters' struggles, discoveries, and triumphs are for you. That's where Engage Your Readers with Emotion While writers might disagree over showing versus telling or plotting versus pantsing, none would argue this: If you want to write strong fiction, you must make your readers feel. The reader's experience must be an emotional journey of its own, one as involving as your characters' struggles, discoveries, and triumphs are for you. That's where The Emotional Craft of Fiction comes in. Veteran literary agent and expert fiction instructor Donald Maass shows you how to use story to provoke a visceral and emotional experience in readers. Topics covered include: emotional modes of writing beyond showing versus telling your story's emotional world moral stakes connecting the inner and outer journeys plot as emotional opportunities invoking higher emotions, symbols, and emotional language cascading change story as emotional mirror positive spirit and magnanimous writing the hidden current that makes stories move Readers can simply read a novel...or they can experience it. The Emotional Craft of Fiction shows you how to make that happen.

30 review for The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write with Emotional Power, Develop Achingly Real Characters, Move Your Readers, and Create Riveting Moral Stakes

  1. 4 out of 5

    K.M. Weiland

    I wish I'd written this book myself if only so I could share every single chapter with my own readers. Because it's brilliant. More than just on-point writing instruction, this is an inspirational challenge calling all writers to be their best selves and write stories that, in turn, inspire and challenge readers in all the best ways. I wasn't expecting that from this book, but I was certainly inspired and challenged myself. Read it! I wish I'd written this book myself if only so I could share every single chapter with my own readers. Because it's brilliant. More than just on-point writing instruction, this is an inspirational challenge calling all writers to be their best selves and write stories that, in turn, inspire and challenge readers in all the best ways. I wasn't expecting that from this book, but I was certainly inspired and challenged myself. Read it!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jon Ureña

    Three and a half stars. I got dozens of notes out of it, as usual, but this one didn't do it for me. Maybe the weakest of his that I've read. It irked me how dogmatic he was about what people want out of reading fiction, as part of the stated belief that pretty much every human being has an essentially compatible set of beliefs, which seems to me extraordinarily naïve. He suggests not going to very dark places with your protagonists, because people don't want to read about characters in very pert Three and a half stars. I got dozens of notes out of it, as usual, but this one didn't do it for me. Maybe the weakest of his that I've read. It irked me how dogmatic he was about what people want out of reading fiction, as part of the stated belief that pretty much every human being has an essentially compatible set of beliefs, which seems to me extraordinarily naïve. He suggests not going to very dark places with your protagonists, because people don't want to read about characters in very perturbed states of mind. I think it's just a matter of identification; I don't connect with characters that have their cozy Brooklyn home where they live with their family and go to hockey games and stuff like that, which is what the author shared about his life. Daily I feel threatened by sensorial information itself, I have to waddle through mental and physical pain and I try to stay coherent in the middle of strong compulsions, so when I read fiction I seek characters who start in deep shit even before the plot hits them. They change, but they rarely, if ever, change into the kind of virtuous individual that Maass assumes as universal. Sometimes they change for the worse, even by their own standards. I haven't had similar issues with other books on writing, maybe because they focused more on the technical aspects of plotting, on what has worked before, and when they delved into what most people might possibly want, they had some neuroscience to back it up (like Lisa Cron's "Wired for Story").

  3. 5 out of 5

    Vaughn Roycroft

    One of the things I love about Donald Maass’s craft books is that he keeps taking it up a notch, keeps pushing boundaries. Which in turn continues to challenge his pupils. Although I firmly believe this book will help any writer who reads it, I feel like it found its way to my hands at the perfect point in my writing journey. It takes the craft of fiction beyond the basic mechanics of characterization and plot construction, and so I would advise brand new writers to perhaps start with Maass’s ea One of the things I love about Donald Maass’s craft books is that he keeps taking it up a notch, keeps pushing boundaries. Which in turn continues to challenge his pupils. Although I firmly believe this book will help any writer who reads it, I feel like it found its way to my hands at the perfect point in my writing journey. It takes the craft of fiction beyond the basic mechanics of characterization and plot construction, and so I would advise brand new writers to perhaps start with Maass’s earlier offerings, and work their way to this one. As a carpenter, I liken it to someone having a sound competency with power tools and construction techniques being offered a set of fine woodworking tools, along with revealing lessons on intricate joinery and working with the grain and density of various substrates. I’ve known for some time that I want more for my stories than to simply entertain, or to keep the pages turning for readers. I want to achieve resonance. As Maass says in the early going of this book: “…[R]eaders fundamentally want to feel something, not about your story, but about themselves. They want to play. They want to anticipate, guess, think, and judge. They want to finish a story and feel competent. They want to feel like they’ve been through something. They want to connect with your characters and live their fictional experience, or believe that they have.” As a reader, that’s what I want. And so, as a writer I aspire to creating stories that offer that kind of connection, and thereby, that kind of experience I seek as a reader. Thanks to Donald Maass, we all have access to the tools and techniques to practice as we strive toward emotional mastery in storytelling. This is a book I will read more than once, and reference again and again.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kelsea

    I accidentally deleted my review of this book and I've already returned it to the library, so I no longer have quotes to cite. This book went into the DNF pile. My main issues with the book included the following: 1. The author's snobbery - of the 'classics & literary fiction are better than all else' variety. 2. Annoyingly misogynistic or otherwise patronizing statements. The author clearly knows better, as each statement that could be taken as misogynistic or discriminatory is either prefaced wi I accidentally deleted my review of this book and I've already returned it to the library, so I no longer have quotes to cite. This book went into the DNF pile. My main issues with the book included the following: 1. The author's snobbery - of the 'classics & literary fiction are better than all else' variety. 2. Annoyingly misogynistic or otherwise patronizing statements. The author clearly knows better, as each statement that could be taken as misogynistic or discriminatory is either prefaced with or followed by an excuse, usually citing some scientific study to justify why it's okay for him to say something clearly not okay. Somehow, I was not surprised (except for the character not being from classics/literary fiction) to find that the author thinks Bella from Twilight is a wonderful example of a woman. 3. Spoilers without warning (major Gone Girl spoilers, for one). 4. Holier-than-thou telling the reader what to do. Citing moral authority. I mentioned this to my husband and he said it sounds like a self-help book. So if you're used to self-help books this may not bother you much. 5. A lot of passages from various books were incorporated, which would make sense as they're used as examples for supposedly emotional scenes. First, I didn't think the choices were all that effective - this could be because as a literary snob, Maass just had to include a lot of passages from 'the greats'/classics. And not having read many of the books quoted, I lacked context. However, if you stick a scene in from a book the reader hasn't read without enough context and expect your reader to see how that demonstrates emotion, I would consider that a failing. The jumping back and forth between passages and commentary also felt too abrupt. BTW - trigger warning for child sexual abuse (note: I didn't remember reading a trigger warning in the book for this particular passage but a commenter mentioned that there was one and I admit it's quite possible I simply missed it, having read this book quickly and off of very little sleep). I was surprised by how vehemently I disliked this book considering how many people seem to love it. The only parts I thought were mildly useful (of the portion I could stand reading) were the questions in each chapter asking the reader to consider certain things in regards to their own writing. I've read quite a few books on writing lately and this was the bottom of the pile for me.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Liz Fenwick

    There is so much in this short book. It is a book to revise a manuscript with, to take you through those scenes that are necessary but aren't working, to force you deeper in the story...to go beyond your own fear as a writer. I need to reread and reread it repeatedly. There is so much in this short book. It is a book to revise a manuscript with, to take you through those scenes that are necessary but aren't working, to force you deeper in the story...to go beyond your own fear as a writer. I need to reread and reread it repeatedly.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship

    This is a provocative writing book. As always with these sorts of books, I think the best reaction is probably to take with you what’s useful and leave behind the rest after having given some consideration to it - if you're going to do something that's not generally advised, you want to be doing it deliberately, not thoughtlessly. And I think there’s a fair amount in here worthy of consideration, though it’s also sometimes less helpful than it could be, particularly when Maass devotes large port This is a provocative writing book. As always with these sorts of books, I think the best reaction is probably to take with you what’s useful and leave behind the rest after having given some consideration to it - if you're going to do something that's not generally advised, you want to be doing it deliberately, not thoughtlessly. And I think there’s a fair amount in here worthy of consideration, though it’s also sometimes less helpful than it could be, particularly when Maass devotes large portions of sections to quoting passages that worked for him, usually preceded with overly long explanations of what the book in question is about even when it’s not actually relevant to understanding the passage. Now there are certainly some good insights and tips in here. For instance, on how to make character emotions effective for a reader (usually by writing around them in one way or another). There are also some insights and tips that I’m glad most writers don’t use. Maass points out, for instance, that the fictional characters you love most are probably in some way better and more admirable than the average person. And this is true for me. But at the same time, I don’t expect or even really want to fall in love with every book, but a large part of what I do want from fiction is a window into lives different from my own. I don’t want every protagonist to be a hero or every book to be about the triumph of the human spirit, or whatever other inflated universalizing language blurb-writers love to use. That’s exhausting and at a certain point I think it’s alienating. I like to read about real, flawed people (though Maass is right that for us to care, their everyday lives need to be rich with meaning). So, is writing about extraordinary, inspiring people a good idea for the individual author? Maybe. But please, don’t all do it at once! Relatedly, Maass pushes back here against the idea that everything in a book needs to be action, no contemplation, and conflict, no harmony. Again, correctly in my reading experience, he points out that the books we love the most tend to be the ones where there is some warmth and emotional connectedness. I think he’s right that it’s rare to see this overdone, and more common to see bleak settings where strangers are hostile, friends useless and generic, families toxic, and protagonists isolated (though I would add: except for their love interest. Perhaps much of this is a clumsy way of isolating protagonists to make sure their romances are meaningful?). One of his more solid tips is to include in the opening not just a plot hook, but an emotional one: why should readers connect with this protagonist? (Because they care about a family member is a good suggested answer.) I find it a little odd that he discusses this whole topic almost in a vacuum though, without addressing the obvious question of how to square it with all that advice about every line consisting of conflict and action. A couple of criticisms I saw before reading the book were about the author’s preference for classic literature, and a couple of weird gendered comments. Maybe it was because seeing these criticisms more than once made me expect worse, but I didn’t think either of these was much of a problem. Maass may connect most with classics, but his examples come from an admirable range of genres and represent both genders. The weirdest bit was his references to “women’s fiction,” which made me think he just calls all contemporary fiction by and about women that doesn’t fall into some other genre label “women’s fiction” (by which standard, of course, most of our celebrated male authors ought to be known as authors of “men’s fiction”). However, that’s a minor point in the scheme of the book. There’s also the valid criticism that the author advises pulling back from very dark character emotions, this evidently being a place he doesn’t want to go. I would put this in the “take it if it helps, leave it if it doesn’t” bucket – I can maybe see where he’s coming from in that big enough emotions can take over the page through action alone without needing a lot of interior description, but I also didn’t find the passage he quoted as a good example of this to be emotionally effective. Instead it came across as weird and distancing. At any rate, there’s plenty to dig into here and Maass offers a lot of concrete tips and exercises for writers, which will no doubt be useful in taking your fiction to the next level. I wouldn’t take it as gospel, but the same should probably be said for every how-to-write book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    An Ultimate Guide for Writers Donald Maass’s THE EMOTIONAL CRAFT OF FICTION: HOW TO WRITE THE STORY BENEATH THE SURFACE is the ultimate writer’s guide to telling a story. Set aside the countless books about plotting, structure, and craft and read this book before you go any further in imagining, drafting, and revising your stories. Throughout this pithy, important book, Maass instructs, demonstrates, motivates, and then gently pushes you out the door to write your story as only you can do. Read i An Ultimate Guide for Writers Donald Maass’s THE EMOTIONAL CRAFT OF FICTION: HOW TO WRITE THE STORY BENEATH THE SURFACE is the ultimate writer’s guide to telling a story. Set aside the countless books about plotting, structure, and craft and read this book before you go any further in imagining, drafting, and revising your stories. Throughout this pithy, important book, Maass instructs, demonstrates, motivates, and then gently pushes you out the door to write your story as only you can do. Read it in one exhilarating thrill ride and then read it again slowly to savor its clear prose and authoritative examples. Do the 34 Emotional Mastery exercises and witness your stories grow complexity, depth, and power. Learn from a brilliant master of story at his most personal, eloquent, and encouraging: “The spirit you bring is the spirit that we’ll feel as we read, and of all the feelings you can excite in your readers the most gripping and beautiful is the spirit of hope.”

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Davis

    It feels like a lot of this is subjective: what engages the author, a literary agent, emotionally. This bothered me sometimes...who is this reader telling a fiction writer how to write? But I think the reader’s perspective isn’t talked about enough in craft, so I welcome this book’s unique point of view. At times it felt like there wasn’t enough here to fill a full book. Some of the segments were super short and consisted mainly of examples Maass feels are effective. However, there are a lot of It feels like a lot of this is subjective: what engages the author, a literary agent, emotionally. This bothered me sometimes...who is this reader telling a fiction writer how to write? But I think the reader’s perspective isn’t talked about enough in craft, so I welcome this book’s unique point of view. At times it felt like there wasn’t enough here to fill a full book. Some of the segments were super short and consisted mainly of examples Maass feels are effective. However, there are a lot of good takeaways here, especially if you need to work on characterization (and I do!). I will say the exercises are particularly helpful. I always appreciate a craft book with solid exercises and prompts to put the ideas into action.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tasha Seegmiller

    This book is not big, but its depth is immeasurable. I allowed myself to be immersed completely in the lessons, taking in Maass' word of wisdom, considering my stories, and favorites written by others. Once again, Maass encourages and guides writers into a depth of story that many ignore but all will benefit from. It is a great study on how to write a story and ends with a call to writers that will inspire and encourage the creation of more words. Brilliant book. This book is not big, but its depth is immeasurable. I allowed myself to be immersed completely in the lessons, taking in Maass' word of wisdom, considering my stories, and favorites written by others. Once again, Maass encourages and guides writers into a depth of story that many ignore but all will benefit from. It is a great study on how to write a story and ends with a call to writers that will inspire and encourage the creation of more words. Brilliant book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Melanie Hooyenga

    Keep a notebook handy, because you'll need it while reading this book. I read this while drafting a very complex — and emotional — novel, and every few pages I had ideas on how I could make my story better. Highly recommend! Keep a notebook handy, because you'll need it while reading this book. I read this while drafting a very complex — and emotional — novel, and every few pages I had ideas on how I could make my story better. Highly recommend!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Susan Haught

    Mr. Maass is one of my favorite craft authors. I connect with his teachings and love putting his suggestions into my work. I took The Emotional Craft of Writing class prior to his releasing this book, and could not wait for it to be released. It's every bit as good as I expected. If you're looking for a book on how to create characters who will resonate with readers on an emotional level, this is a fantastic resource. I'll be rereading it and going over my highlighted areas many times. Mr. Maass is one of my favorite craft authors. I connect with his teachings and love putting his suggestions into my work. I took The Emotional Craft of Writing class prior to his releasing this book, and could not wait for it to be released. It's every bit as good as I expected. If you're looking for a book on how to create characters who will resonate with readers on an emotional level, this is a fantastic resource. I'll be rereading it and going over my highlighted areas many times.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tracey

    Some good reminders in this book on hitting emotional targets in your writing. Maass is, as usual, pretty bang on & writes in an easy straightforward style. I recommend this one for your writing collection.

  13. 5 out of 5

    aix83

    It's useless, patronizing, sexist, and simply comes at things from the wrong angle. Opens with a big essay trying to sell the readers into wanting to become apt at writing emotion, which is needless since readers already came to the book because they were sold into the idea to begin with. Then offers justification as to why the author wrote this book after having written a few others before. Dude, I don't care about your reasons to write it, this isn't a memoir. Just get on with the technical st It's useless, patronizing, sexist, and simply comes at things from the wrong angle. Opens with a big essay trying to sell the readers into wanting to become apt at writing emotion, which is needless since readers already came to the book because they were sold into the idea to begin with. Then offers justification as to why the author wrote this book after having written a few others before. Dude, I don't care about your reasons to write it, this isn't a memoir. Just get on with the technical stuff. What technical stuff? Cause there isn't much. The examples given are bad. Instead of picking paragraphs where the craft can be analytically broken down into 'this word here creates resonance, that word there is showing, the other word there is used for evocative telling', the examples rely on the (informed) ability of the book in question to create emotion through larger techniques that aren't captured on page here, like character investment. Well if I need to be invested in the characters in order to even understand that the excerpt examples are evoking an emotion, then a) the examples are bad and b) let's talk about creating investment into characters instead. Otherwise it's just a case of trying to capture the black cat in the dark room with the cat not being there. Also the book comes across as preachy and engaging in self-ass kissing. Like let's face it, there's only value in literary writing. If there's no melodrama of a middle-aged English professor contemplating adultery (which so often comes from big literary cheeses writing what they know), there's no value to the book because it doesn't engage in exploring the important stuff, like human experience. If I want human experience, I'll give up on my internet banking and go queue to pay the bills once more. Also characters must be moral in order to capture the audience, cause we never heard of Walter White. I didn't even watch that series and I heard of him. QED. Characters don't need to be moral, they need to be interesting. Also, is sexism moral? And is someone sexist entitled to preaching about ethics? Am I being too literary here, cause I think I'm being too literary with exploring this ethics/sexism dichotomy. Fun note about the sexist stuff. I'm from Europe and we don't have it here cause we're leftist commies like that. (Well very occasionally we have it but it's nowhere nearly as institutionalized or offensive as where this guy is from, being mostly limited to being polite in the company of ladies and opening doors, and my country is a special example where even toxic masculinity is almost absent). Not being sensitized to it through repeated exposure (except for the door opening which is very nice, let there be door opening), I don't notice it that easily but in this book it's really evident. In the opening essay, the one that should've been cut in editing, this guy's saying that women's prose and romance is "wallowing" in emotion. He could've used a neutral way to say the same thing, given how he's a writer and all, e.g. women's prose and romance are too emotion-centric. But nah, wallowing is a women's thing, they all wallow. I actually know what he means to say, there are lots of women's books out there that are pure wish fulfillment and smut, but then there are others that aren't, so stereotyping all women's prose and romance like that is stupid and lazy. This is a book on writing and its whole purpose is to break the field into cases and discuss each case separately so that readers can learn from it. But nah, it's better to bank on your fame, issue platitudes, and write about your motivations for writing the book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    This book was useful...for the most part. Some of the examples that were used didn't really work for me and didn't seem to fit what he was trying to illustrate. Others were perfect and actually evoked emotion in me (despite the fact that I've never read the books). The reason I purchased the book was because it contained exercises and those were pretty useful. My biggest issue with this book is that everything is heavily biased (which is the case with most writing advice). One person's preferenc This book was useful...for the most part. Some of the examples that were used didn't really work for me and didn't seem to fit what he was trying to illustrate. Others were perfect and actually evoked emotion in me (despite the fact that I've never read the books). The reason I purchased the book was because it contained exercises and those were pretty useful. My biggest issue with this book is that everything is heavily biased (which is the case with most writing advice). One person's preference is not going to work for someone else. This book is definitely geared toward Donald Maass' personal preference as a literary agent. Everyone has a preference about what they enjoy/dislike when it comes to books (or any other form of art).

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jill Hinton Wolfe

    One of the best books on craft I've ever read I cannot recommended literary agent/writer Maass enough - his work is the rare mix of inspiring & practical at the same time. If you're a fiction writer, you need to read this book, and deeply consider the questions he offers at the end of every section. But don't miss the last chapter! Of all the tools he gives you, his pep talk at the end makes you want to go out & change the world with your writing. (His other books are pretty phenomenal too, inclu One of the best books on craft I've ever read I cannot recommended literary agent/writer Maass enough - his work is the rare mix of inspiring & practical at the same time. If you're a fiction writer, you need to read this book, and deeply consider the questions he offers at the end of every section. But don't miss the last chapter! Of all the tools he gives you, his pep talk at the end makes you want to go out & change the world with your writing. (His other books are pretty phenomenal too, including Writing the Breakout Novel and Writing 21st Century Fiction.) [And no, I don't know Maass and I'm not affiliated with him in any way - I just really love his stuff.]

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tanya Gold

    If you're looking for a book on how to make readers connect with your writing emotionally, I'd recommend Lisa Cron's Wired for Story over this. It covers the same basic concepts, but goes into much more depth. If you're looking for a book on how to make readers connect with your writing emotionally, I'd recommend Lisa Cron's Wired for Story over this. It covers the same basic concepts, but goes into much more depth.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

    This is the best writing book I have ever read, and all I can say is that every single fiction writer should read this. Your readers will thank you.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jo LeGare

    I thought I needed to take notes each chapter... and then realized the book itself is all the notes I need. So I read it, enjoyed the examples Maass gives, dissected my own writings, and came out feeling more confident a writer. Maass hits a topic that’s hard for me to articulate: the unworthiness of writing fiction compared to the greats. And yet, he says the best thing to offer is me. So I’ll do just that—confidently this time. Thanks, Maass! :)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gabrielle Pollack

    Oh. My. Wow. This book was incredible. Personally, it really impressed upon me the beauty of storytelling and life in general. It's probably one of those craft books I'll end up reading over again. Though I'd give a word of caution to any overly younger writers looking for a craft book to read (given some language and content), I really enjoyed it. *thumbs up* Oh. My. Wow. This book was incredible. Personally, it really impressed upon me the beauty of storytelling and life in general. It's probably one of those craft books I'll end up reading over again. Though I'd give a word of caution to any overly younger writers looking for a craft book to read (given some language and content), I really enjoyed it. *thumbs up*

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jordan Brown

    Very informative but also uplifting. I found myself underlining and dog earing pages that I wanted to return to. This will very soon become a well worn, folded and marked up tool to help me on my writing journeys.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Heather Myers

    Thorough Maas does it again. Thorough and informative, this book specifically focuses on crafting emotional fiction, with great examples and inspiring exercises. Highly recommend!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Patricia Faithfull

    I have read a lot of books on craft, from both a prose and screenwriting standpoint, have taken Masterclass.com (all the writers except for Joyce Carol Oats, who is a new addition) and done about 30% of tutorials on WD. I study hard. But this book on craft is one of my least favorite of all time. I will give you this reason up front, then provide a few more that are less visceral to me. 1. My biggest complaint is that there is a BLATANT and TRIGGERING example of CHILD SEX ABUSE – a text excerpt I have read a lot of books on craft, from both a prose and screenwriting standpoint, have taken Masterclass.com (all the writers except for Joyce Carol Oats, who is a new addition) and done about 30% of tutorials on WD. I study hard. But this book on craft is one of my least favorite of all time. I will give you this reason up front, then provide a few more that are less visceral to me. 1. My biggest complaint is that there is a BLATANT and TRIGGERING example of CHILD SEX ABUSE – a text excerpt of epically immoral, unethical, illegal and disgusting detail. Literally a child sex worker, victimized by a ring, is referred to as a literary excerpt, wherein the protagonist is a SEX purchaser. It has haunted me for days on 2 levels. a. One: Zero warning. Graphic detail. Haunting, disgusting, immoral, and vomit inducing. b. Two: A resounding endorsement from Maass that this “scene” is masterful because the protagonist, who is a purchasing the child sex services – (God it breaks my heart to type this) even he has limits to how a child sex slave is treated and kept. WTF???? One what fucking level is this ever acceptable? (No: writing about it does not improve society or bring “awareness.”) Two thumbs down for you using this example – at all. Who edited this material? Or is just like a self-published self-help? Seriously – it’s hard to say anything good about this book because of this one passage. OK. Maybe I’m triggered. But I say it again – WTF???? Here are my other reasons for disliking this book. 2. I found most of the exercises unusable. But I will say that I am always, ALWAYS, highly skeptical of any authority who is an expert, but has never actually written anything other than literary criticisms. I know, he’s an agent, but he STILL hasn’t written a work of fiction. Not one. So how is he an expert on the HOW to execute? How does someone who has never written any fiction all of a sudden have insight into how the DOERS do it? (If this doesn’t resonate with you, please take your car for an oil change at a diner. Or get the steward to fly the plane; they watch the pilots do it all the time.) If anyone uses any of these process, I would love to hear how this has helped you, rather than just being esoteric talking points at an author cocktail party. 3. If you like to read extensively, and have not read some of his examples, and dislike spoilers, you’d be in for a frustrating read. (No warnings are provided, but I can understand why the author needs to provide specifics. Here’s a solution: a preface with which novels are discussed so we can read them first?) 4. He doesn’t distinguish examples in first person, close third, omnipotent – so the material maybe elucidating for you, depending on what your preference. 5. He doesn’t distinguish examples by genre. If you write romance or women’s fiction, I suspect this book would be unusable. 6. As another Goodreads user noted, there is a lot of “snobbery” biases against both women’s fiction which he says “drowns in emotion” but doesn’t touch him; classics and literary are better than the selling “first person narrative” of today. (What am supposed to DO with that tidbit? Use his techniques and hope my work will be posthumously designated a classic?) 7. As well, the other Goodreads user noted and I agree that there are “misogynistic and otherwise patronizing statements” which convey his preferences and opinion, but do little to objectively show craft.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte Burt

    A really good writing craft book. It contains many practical techniques on how to stir emotion in a reader in a myriad of situations, most of which is going to be more useful on a rewrite for a pantster like me. I am sure I will refer to this time and again over the next few years.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Khristina Chess

    The Emotional Craft of Fiction is one of the best handbooks I've added to my shelves in a long time, and I will refer to it often as a checklist tool for my revision process. It feels like the missing toolbox that I've been seeking but didn't know how to request. The advice Maass offers is practical and insightful. I understand. So often with this type of book, the author gives page after page of example without telling me why it works or how to approach the problem with my own work. In contrast The Emotional Craft of Fiction is one of the best handbooks I've added to my shelves in a long time, and I will refer to it often as a checklist tool for my revision process. It feels like the missing toolbox that I've been seeking but didn't know how to request. The advice Maass offers is practical and insightful. I understand. So often with this type of book, the author gives page after page of example without telling me why it works or how to approach the problem with my own work. In contrast, you will find a rich workbook here.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Terri

    There are many good points in this book, and a lot of useful tools and exercises, but the author inserts himself in annoying ways (moreso, it seems, as the book progresses). He is too wordy and repetitive, sounds old fashioned (somewhat sexist, at minimum), and self-congratulatory. Those aspects can be grating. However, I still recommend this book. Just know that you have to look past all of that. As I've progressed further in the book I've skimmed over a lot of the examples. I don't find them p There are many good points in this book, and a lot of useful tools and exercises, but the author inserts himself in annoying ways (moreso, it seems, as the book progresses). He is too wordy and repetitive, sounds old fashioned (somewhat sexist, at minimum), and self-congratulatory. Those aspects can be grating. However, I still recommend this book. Just know that you have to look past all of that. As I've progressed further in the book I've skimmed over a lot of the examples. I don't find them particularly worthwhile. I can't help feeling that a lot of the examples and repetition are there for anyone reading this who has trouble inserting emotion into their writing. The majority of writers I've come across are empaths, but surely there are those who struggle to get it on the page effectively. Again--even if you write emotion well, I think there is value in this book. So where's the value? Well, some of the big ideas here might be review for you, depending on your experience, but Maass extends some of those ideas, and his exercises are great explorations for building characters and advancing emotional arcs. The first two chapters--The Emotional Craft of Fiction and Inner Versus Outer--are my favorites, as they encapsulate the heart of the matter and in them the author has not yet strayed far into repetition and personal asides. I'm not quite done with the book, but I get the sense that the last two chapters are the most fluffy. I've underlined, highlighted, and flagged a lot in this book already, so even if they are, it's still a worthwhile addition to my bookshelf. I hate rating books like this, because the book is valuable, BUT it's so plainly frustrating that a book about writing is so gratingly written.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Amy Warren

    This book spoke to the dissatisfaction I've had with a lot of books over the years. There has definitely been a trend toward constant action and terrible, dismal, oppressive worlds. While I find those books enjoyable and sometimes un-put-down-able, they're not books I re-read or worlds I want to revisit. Maass' latest book makes the point that there are other ways to create tension on the page than constant physical danger and oppression. Maass' final point in this book is that while yes, reader This book spoke to the dissatisfaction I've had with a lot of books over the years. There has definitely been a trend toward constant action and terrible, dismal, oppressive worlds. While I find those books enjoyable and sometimes un-put-down-able, they're not books I re-read or worlds I want to revisit. Maass' latest book makes the point that there are other ways to create tension on the page than constant physical danger and oppression. Maass' final point in this book is that while yes, readers want to see characters struggle and don't necessarily need an HEA, what readers really want is a sense of hope. They want to see a main character bigger than they are, more noble than the real-life people we know - who can cope with the awful plot events life gives them and rise above it. On one hand, I'm convinced that if an author implemented all Maass' suggestions (from all his amazing books) they would never finish a story. There are that many ideas and exercises in these pages. On the other hand, if they did, it would be the book to rule them all. I highly recommend this book for any serious writer - or reader, for that matter.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Emily Ver Steeg

    I only got 50 pages in and I couldn’t bring myself to read any further. Not only is this book not well-written, it also doesn’t contribute anything new to the craft of writing fiction. The advice is so general and common-knowledge, that the author almost doesn’t SAY anything. And when he does say things, they’re almost laughably misleading. For example, he insists that characters should have redeeming qualities for readers to have an emotional attachment to the story—that characters should contr I only got 50 pages in and I couldn’t bring myself to read any further. Not only is this book not well-written, it also doesn’t contribute anything new to the craft of writing fiction. The advice is so general and common-knowledge, that the author almost doesn’t SAY anything. And when he does say things, they’re almost laughably misleading. For example, he insists that characters should have redeeming qualities for readers to have an emotional attachment to the story—that characters should contribute to the “moral elevation” of readers. Perhaps he meant to say that characters should be human or relatable. But he didn’t. He used words like “good” and “moral.” Characters don’t have to have redeeming or moral qualities in order for readers to be invested in them or their stories. Take David Lynch films for example. All that to say, I was incredibly disappointed. I’m not even that experienced of a writer, and I was shocked at how shallow and pedantic the first 50 pages of this book were.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    A number of reviews about this book pretty much encapsulate my views. Liz Fenwick said, “… it is a book to revise a manuscript with … I need to reread it … repeatedly.” Jill Hinton said, “One of the best books on craft I’ve ever read.” As an emerging writer, I couldn’t agree more. This book is a treasure chest for dipping into often and deeply. The techniques Maass talks about are not things I remember being taught at university or creative writing class, and he has a gift for lucid explanations A number of reviews about this book pretty much encapsulate my views. Liz Fenwick said, “… it is a book to revise a manuscript with … I need to reread it … repeatedly.” Jill Hinton said, “One of the best books on craft I’ve ever read.” As an emerging writer, I couldn’t agree more. This book is a treasure chest for dipping into often and deeply. The techniques Maass talks about are not things I remember being taught at university or creative writing class, and he has a gift for lucid explanations. He's thought long and hard about good books and what makes them special, and this how-to book is a joy to read. I think my writing friends are going to be clamouring to borrow my copy, but I can tell you now I’m not parting with it. No sir. Highly recommended.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Murray

    It took me over a year to finish this whole book. Although I think it offers valuable insights and some great prompts and exercises, it really just goes on forever. There is also a point with it that I got tired of the monotony of the rhythm-- each chapter has the same format with a different focus. It just gets old after awhile. I also hotly didn't agree with some of his assertions that were a bit moralistic about writing. Although my own writing follows these guides, I'm not sure that all "goo It took me over a year to finish this whole book. Although I think it offers valuable insights and some great prompts and exercises, it really just goes on forever. There is also a point with it that I got tired of the monotony of the rhythm-- each chapter has the same format with a different focus. It just gets old after awhile. I also hotly didn't agree with some of his assertions that were a bit moralistic about writing. Although my own writing follows these guides, I'm not sure that all "good" writing needs it. For example, his section on hope really forced the idea that good writing has hope in it. I mean, I see what he means, but how he presented it was very Hallmark-y. I gave this three stars because I felt that the exercises are useful-- I even saved all of them.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Amy Vitt

    This was a birthday present from my mother, who dares to support my fever dream of writing a book. I didn't realize that it was only released a few weeks ago, so I suppose a review is in order! This is a beautifully composed manifesto of why writers feel compelled to write. It's also a plea for more genuine emotional content from aspiring authors. If I have a complaint, it's that the actual writing advice within tends to be far more ideological than practical. But I still appreciate the way Maas This was a birthday present from my mother, who dares to support my fever dream of writing a book. I didn't realize that it was only released a few weeks ago, so I suppose a review is in order! This is a beautifully composed manifesto of why writers feel compelled to write. It's also a plea for more genuine emotional content from aspiring authors. If I have a complaint, it's that the actual writing advice within tends to be far more ideological than practical. But I still appreciate the way Maass challenged my assumptions and misconceptions about how to make readers feel, as the kids say, all the feels.

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