How to Send a Message in Your Story... Without Preaching

How to Send a Message in Your Story… Without Preaching

My guess is, if you’re a writer, you have something to say to people. There’s a message in your story. Maybe you want to tell them that life is beautiful, even in the darkest of circumstances. Or that war is pointless. Perhaps you think avocados are nasty and want more people to join you in […]

How Minor Characters Help You Discover Theme

How Minor Characters Help You Discover Theme

Is theme the moral of a story? Is it the message an author wants to share? Or is it something more inherent to the plot itself? If this were a multiple-choice test, then I’d hope you would have chosen C. Although theme is potentially both a moral and a message, neither of these should be […]

Tips for Creating Thematic Resonance

This week’s shows how you can follow Charles Dickens’s example in Little Dorrit by layering it throughout your subplots and creating thematic resonance. Video Transcript: Since theme is often something that arises organically from a story, without much initial conscious thought on the author’s part, it can sometimes be a tricky aspect for writers to […]

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How to Strengthen Your Book’s Thematic Motif Through Repetition

One of the easiest ways to drive home a point is through repetition. Sometimes, repetition in a novel can come across heavy-headed—to the point readers either grow bored or begin to feel manipulated. But what if you could mix the power of repetition with the effectiveness of subtlety? This is exactly what Kurt Vonnegut teaches […]

Should Stories Be Soapboxes?

Should Stories Offer Messages?

Should stories offer messages? Common wisdom insists fiction is meant to entertain, not preach. The novel isn’t a soapbox for religious, political, social, or philosophical views. If you try to use it as such, you’re likely to sacrifice your stories and alienate your readers. And yet, ironically enough, many of the world’s greatest and most […]

Here’s the Right Way to Use Symbolism in Your Story

The right way to use symbolism in stories is more difficult to learn than you might think. In large part, this is because well-done symbols should be almost invisible within the framework of the story. Those that aren’t invisible often feel heavy-handed or even clichéd (such as the inevitable use of the American flag as a […]

The Reason The Great Escape Is My All-Time Favorite Movie

  My all-time favorite movie is the classic World War II film The Great Escape (1963), with Steve McQueen, James Garner, and Richard Attenborough. How come? When you think about it, it’s really a strange war movie: hardly any violence, little action to speak of, and few references to the war itself. Yet every time I watch […]

What Do People Think of You When Reading Your Book?

What Do People Think of You When Reading Your Book?

In her wonderful book 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jane Smiley, commented that “readers don’t care what the author thinks.” She meant, of course, that readers don’t want the author to intrude himself and his own beliefs upon the story. Indeed, isn’t one of the cardinal rules of fiction that the author […]

Subtext: The Art of Iceberging

Sometimes the most powerful writing isn’t so much about what’s said as what isn’t said. If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as […]

the all-important link between theme and character progression

The All-Important Link Between Theme and Character Progression

Theme is a slippery concept. The prevailing wisdom among writers is that if you apply any deliberate force to your theme, you’ll end up with a heavy-handed Aesop’s fable. On the other hand, a story without a theme is shallow escapism at best and an unrealistic flop at worst. Theme is arguably the single most […]