26 April 2007

How Personal Themes Affect Your Writing

Mary Cronk Farrell posted a question on the last entry I made:

Thank you for sharing your wisdom on theme and giving a story depth. I have just finished the first draft of my mystery novel and am beginning to revise using your plot planner scene tracker. I have no idea what my theme is. Can you give me some ideas about how to tease it out? The characters are working out some conflicts besides the mystery, so I know there is some kind of theme about relationships. But what?
Thank you!

Rather than answer her within the comments, I thought I'd cut and paste here what I wrote in the most recent Blockbuster Plots eZine. (If you would like to sign up for the free monthly plot tips eZine, go to: http://www.blockbusterplots.com/contact.html).

I hope the exercise helps, Mary! And thanks for your comments.

On the final class of a recent University of California Santa Cruz extension plot workshop series, I asked writers to complete an exercise meant to reveal themes of their lives. Once again, as in every case, at the end of the exercise, the themes emerging in each of their stories dramatically reflect each writer's personal themes.

Following is the exercise adapted from Philip Gerard's book, Writing a Book That Makes a Difference:

Look into your own personal back story ~~ all of life's experiences and history that has made you who you are today. Which scene has stayed with you in detail and emotion since the moment of the experience? The really big stuff, either traumatic or ecstatic, follows life's paradox: that which is big actually means very little. That which is small can mean everything.

Look for the small cause that created a lasting effect. For example: You wanted something with all of your might and you got it. Or, you wanted something with all of your might and you did not get it. Two similar dreams, two thematically opposite outcomes and lasting effects.

We as writers are conduits of creation. Inspiration flows through us to the page, having been touched by our body of experiences and residue emotional development based on those experiences.

18 April 2007

Giving a Story Depth

Most writers have a preference for one plot line over another. Some are Character-driven writers. Others are Action-driven writers. Some have strengths in both. Not many are Thematic-driven.

The deeper meaning of a story comes up out of the story itself over time. Thus, the Thematic Significance plot line is generally saved for the last or is either ignored or overlooked all together.

The more aware a writer is about their own personal themes, the more attuned the writer will be in the search for deeper meaning.

For an exercise to determine your own personal themes, go to:

Recent testimonial from Florida:
"It is amazing how each session the plot, theme and content gets clearer and clearer as you direct me. The scenes I had the most resistant to reveal the most... I feel myself getting closer to a story line....and it is my story and it is not. because what I lived is not who I am....for the first time I am coming out of the closet..."

02 April 2007

Yet Another Case of Waxing on For Too Long in the Beginning

The Universal Story Form is made up of three parts: the Beginning, the Middle, the End.

Simple, right? Right.

The Beginning makes up of 1/4 of the entire page, scene, or word count.
The Middle makes up 1/2 of the page count.
The End makes up 1/4 of the page count

Simple, right? Well, it should be, but sometimes it's not, and for a very simple reason.

Often writers go on for too long in the Introductory mode at the Beginning. This is normal. Writers warm up at the Beginning. They get to know their characters. They usually write in summary, giving all sorts of what they believe are important details about the characters and the story up front.

What's wrong with that, you ask? Absolutely nothing, in the first draft, that is. After the first draft, this rambling on and on poses a significant problem.

By going on for too long in the Beginning, the writer alienates the reader or movie-goer. Your audience to become impatient to get to the "good part" -- the Middle. They grow tired of the introductions and want to get to the heart of the story world itself -- the Middle. They want something big to happen, be swept off their feet, so to speak.

Write to the End without going back to the Beginning. Once you have the first, ugly, messy, not worthy, vomit, and all the other ways people describe their first drafts, divide the entire page count by four. If you find the Beginning drifts way beyond the 1/4 mark, consider cutting all the writing you did to get warmed up. Generally this adds up to be the first 50 - 100 pages. Now you see why I want you to write all the way to the end without going back? If you had done what too many writers do and get stuck in the syndrome of hitting the middle of the Middle and then going back to the Beginning, your Beginning will be all polished and nice, and much, much more difficult and painful to cut than if you have only written it once.

(For tips on how to push yourself beyond the middle of the Middle without going back and starting again, please visit the tips page on http://www.blockbusterplots.com)