How to find the theme in your stories–and turn them into T-rexes

How to find the theme

How to find the theme in your stories? Just look under the surface…

That of theme is an essential concept in creative writing. In fact, it can give a work of fiction depth and resonance beyond belief.

However, it is important to make sure we know what a theme really is.

In particular we must pay attention not to confuse it with the subject of a story.

For example, in the Lord of the Rings Frodo must travel to Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring, the only able to rule the other Rings of Power. We can therefore say that the battle for power is the subject of the story.

Instead, the main theme of The Lord of the Rings (or rather one of its main themes) has to do with the inherent ability power has to corrupt who wields it.

To make things clearer, just think of a book about the war. In such a case the war would be the subject of the book.

Instead, the take of the author on such a subject would be the theme. For example, some authors might decide to explore the theme of the inevitability of war, some others might focus on the loss and pain war causes, yet some others might decide to depict war like an opportunity–you get the idea.

Obviously, in a novel themes can be more than one. Besides, while some may be quite prominent, others might be only briefly touched upon. Continue reading

How to write a lot every day – myths and facts

clock - how to write a lot every dayMany years ago, when I began to put pen to paper, I wrote using whatever I had at my disposal.

Given that I was a happy owner of a Commodore Amiga, and I also was a sort of a geek, the program I chose to write my first stories was a Seka Assembler, an editor developed for programmers, not writers.

Seka Assembler was rudimentary, but it was fast and had all the basic functions I needed. I used it to write several short stories and one long SF novel I’m sure I still have tucked away somewhere.

It took me a couple of years to finally decide this writing thing really intrigued me, and consequently buy a proper word processor. Besides, during those first years I wrote without any kind of a routine.

Some weeks I wrote for hours seven days out of seven, some others I didn’t write a single word. Also, I didn’t pay much attention to how many words I wrote every day, or whether what I had just written was at least intelligible.

If I had the opportunity to do so, I just wrote whenever I felt like. Continue reading

Good ideas, bad ideas – How to recognize good and bad ideas

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between good and bad ideas. But the alternative is to have no ideas at all. Because, especially at the beginning, good and bad ideas are often indistinguishable.

salvador dalì - good and bad ideasGiven at least a grain of talent, creativity can be boosted.

This is good news. In fact, it’s reassuring to be told we can take a stroll, read a book, or enroll for a creativity course to double the amount of our creative ideas, or to make them more original.

But, as it is often the case in real life, things aren’t so straightforward.

Otherwise, considering the number of books and courses devoted to creativity, lateral thinking, or whatever else we may call it, we would have droves of people coming up with spectacular new ideas all the time.

Besides, we should also recognize that creative ideas can be both good and bad ideas.

After all creative means “relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.”

And original means “not dependent on other people’s ideas; inventive and unusual.”

As a result, even if becoming more creative can be helpful, it’s often just a first step on the long and sometimes quite winding path leading to creative and effective new ideas. Continue reading

Why to say no is important, and political correctness is bullshit

Why to say no? Well bred people never say so, right? And values like appropriateness, politeness and inclusiveness…shouldn’t they guide our stylistic choices? After all, we don’t want to make anyone angry, right? Well, not so fast.

why to say no - lionThese days political correctness seems to be a hot issue for everyone.

So much so that as someone wrote, we can say with confidence that political correctness has gone mainstream.

Now, while I believe it is important to respect everyone, I also believe all this political correctness is in most cases a heap of nonsense.

In fact, there’s a fine line between granting people basic and inalienable rights, and instead enforcing such rights with a series of laws and policies. Laws and policies that in most cases force people to act in certain ways, but don’t teach them anything about the underlying principles.

Basic and inalienable rights have to do with education, role models, and culture at large–and though they need time to bear fruits, they are the ones that really do the job.

Instead, enforced policies only look at numeric entities that aren’t necessarily representative of any meaningful improvement in the way disadvantaged or discriminated groups of people are treated. Continue reading

The importance of challenging the status quo

challenging the status quoWhen I was a toddler I was taught to fit in and do as I was told.

Nobody ever told me about challenging the status quo.

Rather, on the rare occasions someone mentioned it, the implicit message about the status quo was that it was something desirable.

Of course, from a practical point of view this makes sense, at least in part. In fact, if a child begins to question everything she is told she can turn her parent’s life, and her own, into a misery of never ending crises.

In fact, a small child, despite her apparent harmlessness, can refuse to do a lot of things and so disrupt the lives of her parents, her parent’s friends, and all the people the above mentioned parents may come in contact with.

Challenging the status quo is normal for a child

Shoes? Who needs shoes? Even if we’re in the middle of winter and it’s freezing outside, I want to ditch them and run barefoot.

Soup? Soup isn’t even a proper food. Besides, it’s too hot, or too cold, or simply too liquid. I want to make a sandwich with ham and Nutella. I want licorice. I want to watch the TV. What? I can’t eat it? Shame on you!

Time to sleep, you say? Well, I don’t feel like. Not in the least. I want to cry my eyes out at full blast instead. Why? Well, let’s say I’m teething, maybe. Or maybe not. I just feel like my vocal cords would benefit from some extra exercise.

You see, I want to grow a voice as powerful and thundering as Pavarotti’s was.

I bet we all have some experience of this. Either direct or indirect. Either as children ourselves or parents. Continue reading