5 Questions for Choosing a Protagonist Who Represents Your Story’s Theme

Choosing a protagonist is often more of an event than a process. Writers sometimes feel more like the protagonist chooses them than the other way around. While most of us heed our first instinct to simply chase after this character to see where he goes, it’s important that at some point we analyze the soundness […]

character's inner conflict

Creating Your Character’s Inner Conflict: Want vs. Need

Man vs. Self—it’s the most archetypal of all stories. This is because all stories are ultimately rooted in the primal and personal struggle of a character’s inner conflict. As individuals, our conflicts with others or the world itself are almost inevitably either reflections or projections of our inner conflicts—our cognitive dissonances, our conflicting wants and […]

How to Use a “Truth Chart” to Figure Out Your Character’s Arc

“How do I figure out my character’s arc?” This is a question I receive commonly—and with good reason. Not only is your character’s arc central to all your other story choices—plot and theme foremost among them—character arc can also seem like one of the most daunting parts of story. Mostly this is because of its […]

thematic metaphor

How to Make Your Plot a Powerful Thematic Metaphor

Your thematic metaphor is the unifying idea that emerges as the meaning behind your characters’ adventures in their story world. Once you have identified your story’s thematic principle, the real work begins. How will you seamlessly join theme to plot? Masterful authors create stories that, on their surfaces, may seem to be entirely plot—and yet […]

plot and theme header

What Is the Relationship Between Plot and Theme?

Sometimes plot and theme are confused as being basically the same thing. Other times, they’re viewed as so distinct they don’t even belong in the same discussion. So which is it? First questions first: is plot basically the same thing as theme? To some degree, the answer is yes. Or, at least, intuitive phrasing often […]

use theme to create character arc header

5 Ways to Use Theme to Create Character Arc (and Vice Versa)

What’s the easiest way to find your story’s theme—and make it stick? Although any discussion of theme is multi-faceted, one of the best ways to approach this complex topic is through the realization that you can use theme to create character arc—and vice versa. When asked to explain what a particular story is about, some […]

thematic principle header

How to Find Your Thematic Principle

There are words I think of as “infinite words.” These are words that express more, in their essence, than we can ever quite seem to explain. They’re the words of poetry. Indeed, many are complete poems all in a single word. For me, one of those words is “theme.” Theme is one of those endlessly […]

plot character theme header

Plot, Character, and Theme: The Greatest Love Triangle in Fiction

Once upon a time, Character fell in love with Plot. Right from the start, it was a stormy relationship. There was passion, there was romance, there were epic stakes. And conflict? Puh-lenty. Sometimes they were pretty sure they couldn’t live with each other a moment longer. Sometimes they tried to give each other up altogether. […]

Ant-Man and the Wasp Big

4 Ways to Choose a Better Theme for Your Book

Part 20 of The Do’s and Don’ts of Storytelling According to Marvel Writers often have a complicated relationship with theme. We love it. It loves us back. But reaching a harmonious happily-ever-after with theme sometimes turns into as much of a soap opera as a long-running CW drama. Just writing a story that has a theme is […]

How to Write Unique Themes

How to Write Unique Themes

Here’s a mind-bender for you: the best story themes are both universal and unique. But how does that even work? How can you learn to how write unique themes that say something fresh and new—and yet are resonant to every person on the planet? Good question. This is something I’ve been mulling lately after a […]