Writing to Breakout I – Characters

breakout workbookThis week, we’ll be examining Donald Maas’ Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. My goal is to inspire and educate you to the basics of writing, and hopefully help you find resources to enhance your writing.

Today, we’ll look at Lessons 1-12, Part I, Character Development from Donald Maas. The lessons cover everything from adding heroic qualities to a protagonist (the one we root for), to antagonists, to enriching the major cast with secondary characters. I’ll pick out one point from each, and encourage you to acquire this workbook and complete the fill-in exercises at the end of each lesson to help you grow your novel.

I love hearing from you, my readers and followers. And I love sharing my resources with you. I appreciate you taking the time to read this blog and explore the website.

Let’s see what we have for today.

Part I – Character Development

Lesson 1 Adding Heroic Qualities:. A small show of gumption, a glimmer of humor, a dab of ironic self-regard can be enough for us to hang onto.” (page 8).

Lesson 2 – Multidimensional Characters: “In well-constructed fiction, a multidimensional character will keep us guessing: What is this person going to do, say, or think next?”

Lesson 3 – Inner Conflict: Simply put, inner conflict is wanting or desiring two things that are basically “in direct opposition to each other.”

Lesson 4 – Larger-Than-Life Character Qualities: The characters think and do things they would never say, do, or think. Their minds change over time.

Lesson 5 – Heightening Larger-Than-Life Qualities: Make it bigger, make it smaller, make it more independent. “Larger-than-life characters powerfully attract us. Why? They are surprising, vital, and alive.”

Lesson 6 – Character Turnabouts and Surprises: It comes down to reverse the motives of the character in the scene. Write a list of actions and motivations for any given scene, then write the scene again with a different twist.

Lesson 7 – Personal Stakes: Personal stakes are more than the hero wants. It’s also why. How important is it to him or her?

From Maas Breakout Workout

From Maas Breakout Workout

Lesson 8 – Ultimate Stakes: the moment of irrevocable commitment. “When life tests us to the utmost, our motives grow exponentially greater.” That’s ultimate stakes.

Lesson 9 – Exposition: This could be a lesson in itself. It’s inside the character’s head. What he thinks, what he feels, his self-regard, reflection and self-examination. It’s the character’s inner life brought to the page for the reader.

Lesson 10 – Creating Secondary Characters: Secondary characters support the major, and they need to be just as interesting and multi-dimensional as the main characters are. Give them quirks and qualities, conflicts. Just because they’re minor doesn’t mean they have to be boring or minor.

Lesson 11 – Antagonist: This could also be a lesson in and of itself. Antagonists come in many shapes and sizes. They can be villains, or they can be life itself.

Lesson 12 – Enriching Your Cast: Combine qualities of several characters into one, thereby eliminating too many peripheral characters we may only see once or twice. “Give the people in your novel many roles, and your story will be the big beneficiary.”

That’s the first third of this notebook. So many details and passages from literary works are used to illustrate the main points each lesson has. There are also exercises that make you think and work as you begin to put the elements of your novel together.

Tomorrow: Part Two – Plot Development

What do you think is more important – characters or plot? Leave a comment and let me know.

2 Comments on “Writing to Breakout I – Characters”

  1. I think both characters and plot are equally important to your story because, as a voracious reader, I know that my favorite thing is characters that are well-created and rich in character, but even the best characters do not hold my attention if the plot is not interesting and does not effectively move the story forward, the story will not be enjoyable. Therefore, both good quality characters and a well-planned, forward-moving plot are equally important.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You’re right, both are very necessary. That’s why an earlier post I did on DiAnn’s Mills’ book Dance of Character and Plot – shows the importance of both, and how to get them to work together. I love sharing my writing resources and what each author has to say. I edited this post because of a post coming out tomorrow.


Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

The Mickey Mindset

Celebrating the Art of Disney Storytelling

Live to Write - Write to Live

We live to write and write to live ... professional writers talk about the craft and business of writing

Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Joseph E Bird

Let's talk about reading, writing and the arts.

For a purpose

The blog site of Rick Wade


Where it is a good thing to be an outcast.


We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; let your light shine through your cracked pot. Ring the bells that still can ring, Forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything, That's how the light gets in and comes out.

loon watchman

stark raving sane.

Kelly F Barr

"A story without love is empty." -- Kelly F. Barr

Beautiful Life with Cancer

Discovering the Gift

Vonj Production

Bringing you love through spirit!

A christian dad blog

Just a dad following God's path


A blog full of humorous and poignant observations.


easy reading is damn hard writing

Funny Dog Moments

Funny Tales of Cinnamon the Cute Guard Dog

Life Through the Big Screen

A podcast where I invite guests from all walks of life to discuss their favorite movies, and we use that film as a starting point to talk about deeper issues such as faith, politics, and social issues.

A Writer's Path

Sharing writing tips, information, and advice.

%d bloggers like this: