Weaving Themes into Stories

Weaving Themes into Stories

In last week’s post, I discussed how themes, just like plot and characters, are innate parts of storytelling, and how we cannot divorce theme from the rest of our writing. The natural follow-up question, then, is how do you handle thematic elements well? Readers and writers alike are well aware that things like theme, symbolism, and motifs are delicate and difficult—give it too much space and your book becomes a sermon, and give it too little and your story suffers for lack of clarity and meaning. To quote my previous post, “poorly-handled themes are a result of their disharmony with the characters and plot of a story.” But how do you find that wonderful harmony of story elements? Realizing that theme is always there is the first step. The second step is understanding how themes operate (often uniquely) in creative storytelling; and the third step is finding techniques to question your themes in order to extract nuance. Continue reading “Weaving Themes into Stories”

The Hidden Third Element of Storytelling

The Hidden Third Element of Storytelling

What are the bare basics you need to tell a story? Characters are essential, of course—stories can’t exist without them; plot goes-hand-in-hand, whether it’s intricate or loose; and, to allow for some obviousness, you always need a medium by which to communicate the tale, whether written, oral, or visual. But that’s not everything, is it? Although we may not always realize it, there’s another element that always comes alongside characters and plot, but often remains hidden even from the author: theme. Continue reading “The Hidden Third Element of Storytelling”

How to Craft Perfectly-Paced Scenes

How to Craft Perfectly Paced Scenes

Now that I’m writing the second draft of my novel, I’ve been pondering the technical parts of story and prose—and, lately, I’ve been thinking about pacing. Generally speaking, I think I have a good grasp on how to pace my scenes, whether they’re full of action or dialogue or time jumps, but I know that’s a skill I’ve developed over a lot of time (and a lot of drafts) and still need to keep developing. And, just because I feel more comfortable with the pacing of my novel doesn’t mean there still aren’t times when I struggle to insert my protagonist’s inner dialogue into the prose in a natural way, or make tense dialogue short and snippy enough to evoke emotion. All prose-related skills take time and (lots of) editing. But I do think there are ways to help writers nail the essence of a scene on the first or second try, and that comes down to becoming aware of the passage of time and how action affects our senses. Continue reading “How to Craft Perfectly-Paced Scenes”

2 Reasons to Stop Complaining About Writing

2 Reasons to Stop Complaining About Writing

Anyone who knows me well also knows I have a long list of pet peeves—often minor issues or preferences that cause a moment of frustration before I move on to more productive things. But there are a handful of items on the list that cause a deeper sort of agitation, especially when I see them everywhere I look. In the realm of writing, self-deprecating humor and complaining are two frequent offenders. Continue reading “2 Reasons to Stop Complaining About Writing”

The Question I Ask to Overcome Comparison

The Question I Ask to Overcome Comparison.png

Comparison is a nearly ubiquitous problem for humanity, but because I’m a part of and immersed in creative spheres, the way comparison creeps into the minds of artists and writers is particularly apparent to me. It’s also apparent because I’ve fallen into the trap myself, and will likely fall into it again, or come near the edge, in the future. The line between admiration and comparison (and jealousy) is fine and easy to cross. What begins as “wow, this author does such a good job with themes! I want to write strong themes like they do” quickly degrades into “I wish I was as good of a writer as they are,” then “I’m so bad at writing, everything I create is shallow,” and then “I’ll never be as good as other writers are.” And by that point, the comparison hole is so deep that it can takes hours or days to crawl up out of it. Continue reading “The Question I Ask to Overcome Comparison”