characters / setting / writers tips

Writers Tips #82: 7 Tips on Time and Place from Donald Maass

writers tips

Great tips for soon-to-be great writers

When you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. These writer’s tips will come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.

In Donald Maass’ excellent how-to-write treatise, Writing the Breakout Novel (Writers Digest 2001), each chapter ends with a checklist of items writers simply must accomplish if they plan to ‘break out’. Here’s one from his chapter on time and place:

  1. Every story has a context, whether it is emphasized or not
  2. Creating breakout time and place involves more than just describing setting
  3. Using psychology of place means capturing how a place makes a point-of-view character feel
  4. Convey a sense of the times
  5. Portray historical forces and social trends through characters
  6. Unexpected tragedy or grace adds a sense of destiny at work
  7. Detail is the secret ingredient of breakout settings

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Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-fifth grade and creator of two technology training books for middle school. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman.  She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.comEditorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing TeachersIMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything and Technology in Education. Currently, she’s seeking representation for a techno-thriller that she’s just completed. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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6 thoughts on “Writers Tips #82: 7 Tips on Time and Place from Donald Maass

  1. Pingback: Setting is Not a Place, it’s an Emotion | WordDreams...

  2. Pingback: Today's Author | Setting is not a Place, it’s an Emotion

  3. I always enjoy how-to books that not only provide general musings in each chapter, but that additionally give you bullet point tips or checklists etc like you describe here. It’s like a call to action and allows me the chance to become accountable for the learning process.


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