A Documentary and A Little More Donald Maass

It’s been a little over a week since I attended the one day workshop  by Donald Maass. I find myself on the lookout for emotional stories. Stories told by persons deeply affected by the story they are telling.

Here are some notes I took:

  • What makes the protagonist intriguing? Give the readers a puzzle to solve.
  • What is one unique ability or insight?
  • What is one thing that makes your protagonist exceptional?
  • What impedes or blinds your character?
  • What inability does she have?
  • How is this handicap an advantage?
  • What is the moment it’s the most disadvantaged?

Have you ever sat and listened to a story or someone’s recount of events and wish the story would go on indefinitely? When it is both a beautiful story and a well-written (or well-spoken) one and you just don’t want it to end?

I thought of all these things as I listened to CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) is morning and The Current’s Anna Maria Tremonti interview Gina Roitman who is, among other things, a writer and poet. She is also the co-producer and subject of the documentary, My Mother, The Nazi Midwife and Me.

My journey began as research for a novel, a work of fiction.  It quickly grew into a documentary,  when at almost every turn I uncovered accounts that are not only relevant to me as an individual, but to history.

My Mother, the Nazi Midwife and Me is a compelling, hour-long documentary that unearths a chilling story about the systematic murder of Jewish infants in a DP camp after the end of World War II.

My Mother, The Nazi Midwife And Me airs tonight at 8:00 pm on The Documentary Channel.

In the documentary Gina Roitman talks about the stories her mother, a Holocaust Survivor, told her surrounding her pregnancy and circumstances of the place in which she was to be born. She tells of her mother’s fears about newborn babies dying in the Displaced Persons Camp where they lived after the end of World War II. And on Gina’s birthdays she would tell her the story of how she saved her life.

It the fascinating story of a daughter who grew up in Canada having never experienced the horrors of being Jewish during the Second World War. It’s the story of a woman hearing her mother’s warnings and paranoid stories, discounting them, and how later in life she came to learn they were true.

But What is it that moves readers’ hearts? What conjures in readers’ imaginations a reality that, for a while, feels more real than their own lives? What glues readers to characters and makes those characters objects of identification: people with whom readers feel intimately involved, about whom they care, and whose outcomes matter greatly? Emotions. Donald Maass, Writing 21st Century Fiction

That’s what I felt while listening to The Current and Tremonti and Roitman discussing this documentary. It is a deeply personal story. There is a puzzle. The stories told to her by her mother make her exceptional. Those stories colored her relationship with her mother. She could not relate to them. Until she decides she needs to know the truth. And she turns her disadvantage into an advantage. At least, that’s how I’m looking at it. And why I’ll be watching The Documentary Channel tonight.