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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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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Creative writing advice – never explain too much

In chess they say you have to follow just three rules to play like a Grandmaster.  You have to play carefully, carefully, carefully. Something similar holds true when it comes to creative writing advice. Only, it’s something you have to avoid doing rather than the other way around. Namely, you should never explain too much. Yes, you read it right. Never, ever, explain too much. At first blush, this might look like a fairly banal mistake. Yet it isn’t only beginning writers who tend to explain too much. Now and then also more experienced writers make this mistake. Writers who should know everything about creative writing advice and a lot more. I’m writing this because last week I read a novel from a relatively well known author. A novel that was well written, more than adequately edited, and perfectly formatted. Yet it made me cringe. Over and over again. The …

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How to use stereotypes in books – writing myths debunked

Stereotypes in books… Shouldn’t they be like the kiss of death for the story you want to tell? Well, not necessarily. First of all, let’s consider what a stereotype is according to the Oxford Dictionary: a widely held but fixed and oversimplified idea of a particular type of person, group of people, or thing. In this definition the adjectives “fixed” and “oversimplified” are the ones that make any serious beginning writer consider stereotypes in books with diffidence, to say the least. Besides, in the past, some psychologists believed stereotypes were used exclusively by people particularly rigid, repressed, and authoritarian–the exact opposite of what any writer should aim to be. Indeed, at times stereotypes can make us blind to what is out there in the environment. But they can also enable us to respond rapidly to a wide array of situations we have already encountered. In addition, we should also note how …

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