2018 Early Bird Session

2 0 1 8   E A R L Y   B I R D   S E S S I O N  


How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface


Donald Maass

August 20, 2018

9:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m. – Portland, OR

Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference at Janzten Beach Red Lion


The emotional effect of fiction on readers is more than just luck. It’s a craft.

Based on psychological research and extensive study of what makes novels emotionally gripping, workshop participants will discover how to go beyond showing or telling to create an emotional journey for readers—one unseen but nevertheless deeply felt and ultimately unforgettable.

Topics and techniques include:

  • 3rd Level Emotions: Emotional surprise and subtlety.
  • Small = Big: Using small details to build big emotions.
  • Making Inactive Scenes Matter: What’s happening when “nothing is happening.”
  • Tension & Energy Shifts: How to pace a novel’s unseen emotional plot.
  • Emotional Hooks: Unnoticed dimensions of great openings.
  • Plotting the Non-Plot Driven Novel: Plotting by asking the right questions.
  • The Emotional Plot and the Reader’s Map: Plot as emotional opportunities.
  • Emotional Goals and Turning Points in Scenes: The inner scene and how to shape it.
  • Scenes or Postcards: What’s literary/what’s commercial.
  • Story Worlds We Don’t Want to Leave: Not place but experience.
  • Emotional Language: Using rhetorical devices for emotional effect.
  • Moving Readers with Change: Arc and its variations.
  • The Emotional Mirror: The hidden source of story power.


Donald Maass founded the Donald Maass Literary Agency in 1980. His agency sells more than 150 novels every year to major publishers in the U.S. and overseas. He is the author of The Career Novelist (1996), Writing the Breakout Novel (2001), Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook (2004), The Fire in Fiction (2009), Writing 21st Century Fiction (2012), and The Emotional Craft of Fiction (2016). He is a past president of the Association of Authors’ Representatives, Inc.


$135 (includes lunch) ~ Registration opens March 1 ~ Space is limited.