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

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 …

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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. These 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 …

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Psychological resistance and creative writing

psychological resistance

The concept of psychological resistance is nothing new, but it’s extremely important to know about it and its pernicious effects, if we want to keep improving in whatever we’re doing. A classical example of such psychological resistance is when we take for granted that we already know all the really relevant and important stuff about what we’re doing. Often, in such a case we discount any new piece of information because to examine it from an unbiased perspective we would have to challenge a lot of deep rooted perceptions and beliefs. We would have to challenge them with truth and reality, a situation that invariably leads most of us to experience fear, anxiety, uncertainty. Yet, in life nothing is certain. And everything is in perennial flux. Heraclitus wrote about it something like 2,500 years ago. As a result of this perennial flux, it’s essential to understand that knowledge too undergoes a …

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How to tell if your writing is improving – 4 easy tips

When it comes to judging our writing talent we can be incredibly biased. We can delude ourselves and believe we are the next big name; we can also be so critical with ourselves we end up believing we only write rubbish. Indeed, even the most balanced aspiring writers can feel discouraged and have the impression that despite their best efforts they’re getting nowhere. In particular, they feel their writing isn’t improving in any significant way. Now, even if it can be difficult to be objective about our own work, this doesn’t mean it’s an impossible task. And indeed, the following suggestions can help us to assess our own writing with at least a certain amount of equanimity.

The simplest solution in creative writing – understanding Occam’s razor

Keep it simple, this is a mantra so short and appealing that we end up thinking it must be always true. Unfortunately it is not. However, once we understand what the simplest solution means in creative writing, we can really step up our writing style. What is Occam’s razor, and why the simplest solution? In short, Occam’s razor is a principle stating that, among competing hypotheses, the simplest one should be preferred. However, this is just a tool, and like any tool it’s far from perfect. In fact, the preference it accords to the simplest solutions is such not because these have been proved to be always the correct ones—not at all. Rather, Occam’s razor gives preference to the simplest solutions because they are the more easily testable. The fact they often are also the correct ones is just a nice bonus. For example, just think of the stars we see in the …

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