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Book summary: The Emotional Craft of Fiction (I)

This is the first part of my summary of the book “The Emotional Craft of Fiction”, by Donald Maass. It’s a book about writing fiction, as you can imagine. This first part is very short, and will simply distill what I think are the main ideas in the book. Later parts will explore the book more in detail, chapter by chapter.

Edit: See the second part of the summary on this blog.

What I can see as the main ideas of the book are:

  1. Showing and telling are both fine, but they have to be used well.
  2. Personal stakes (longing and inner yearning) are more powerful than public stakes (external need, “bad things will happen unless they do this”). Characters changing is the most important part of a story.
  3. Readers don’t feel the feelings they read. Instead, what they read makes them respond and feel their own feelings. You’re not telling your characters’ stories, you’re telling us ours.
  4. Uplifting endings and the assumption of goodness (the world is a good place, or will be by the end of the story) work better than the alternatives.

These are ideas that I found surprising, inspiring, and/or that are repeating throughout the book and seem important for the lessons to be learned. They might not completely make sense without the context of the book, though. Stay tuned for the more detailed, chapter-by-chapter summary!