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  • Good for expanding your ideas about writing.

    I write fantasy. I also play fantasy Role Playing Games (RPGs). In the typical RPG, a varied group of individuals, each with separate powers, abilities and agendas, somehow come together, explore an old castle, kill the monster and steal the gold. Lots of what K.M. Weiland may refer to as character and plot. Yet we are warned not to try and translate RPGs into a novel and the reason may be they lack KM’s third key element of a good story: theme. . Now, I have been reading KM’s emails, tweets, posts and books for about as long as I have made writing a novel a life project (about two years). In all of her work she emphasizes the importance of each of the three elements, as well as such things as character and story arcs, the Lie and the Truth, conflict and the protagonist, and many other things. These are certainly represented in her book: Writing Your Story’s Theme. Yet with theme as the primary subject, what follows are a few specific tidbits I got out of the book. . Of all the things KM presents in her novel writing theory, none has been as hard a nutshell for me to crack as understanding scene writing. She writes that what seems to be one idea (a scene) is actually broken down to six in two sets of three ideas. In Theme, much of the detail is set aside. Keeping it simple is done to accent how a scene is an interweaving of the inner development of the character (internal conflict) with the outer action of the scene’s plot (external conflict). KM thus demonstrates how theme is built upon by logically sequential scenes. Building the big theme of the story through the many mini-themes of scenes is a discussion I found useful. . I also found KM’s advice on the antagonist (in developing theme) sharpened my vision of just what he could and should be in my story. Reading Theme, I often drifted into how I could clarify my antagonist’s role, making him more powerful figure and relevant to the character arc of my primary protagonist. Once, I even had to stop reading in order to jot down a few ideas. Now, I dare say, my protagonist has a lot more on her plate than she did before. . The chapter on message was particularly striking. (To skip the spoiler below, understand that KM basically warns the writer from emphasizing message over theme.) From it I found a new perspective on what I believe is a shortcoming of Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. ***SPOILER ALERT*** Ben-Hur’s primary theme can be summarized by one word: Revenge. The theme is masterfully explored in the heart of the novel (Wallace uses sections he calls “books” each with its own set of chapters)—books 2 through 7. Yet in the concluding book 8, the theme is lost to the message of Jesus on the cross as it is commonly understood in mainstream Christianity. This overwhelms the theme and is thrust upon the protagonist (and reader). The story becomes preachy (KM describes this as didactic) and the protagonist’s development stagnates. It becomes predictable to anyone who attended Sunday School. By contrast, the 1959 movie adaptation does not make this story-telling faux pas. The concluding scenes focus on Ben-Hur and his personal discovery of the story’s Truth (using the word as KM does). In Ben-Hur’s case, it’s how a life spent seeking revenge is a life wasted (or something like that). This is exemplified by the foreshadowed “gourd of water” scene in the march to the crucifixion. ***END SPOILER*** . Likewise, KM’s chapter on symbolism had much to offer. KM reviews five different ways to incorporate symbols. For me, I use the trees and the forest for my characters home—especially making use of the word “root.” At one point, a tree breaks apart in a blizzard. KM’s tips have had me rethink these story features into something metaphoric along the lines of how their world is falling apart. KM doesn’t intend for a writer to put meaning into every twig that snaps, but does turn on the idea to look for something deeper in the course of creating your story. . Of all that I got out of Theme, the most important may be the easiest to understand: I learned how to write my theme in a sentence. This may seem small. I knew my Elven love story was built around “interpersonal love,” and was able to work with just that. Yet, it wasn’t until after reading Theme that I was able to put my theme into a complete answer to some random person’s question: “What’s your book about?” . In sum, I got a lot out of Theme. Again, KM goes over all her theory in the book, so someone well read in her writings will find a lot of repetition. I can’t say it could or should be the first thing a new or curious writer should read of hers—that I reserve for 5 Secrets of Story Structure (the book that pops up each time you open her website). Yet it is fair to say that Theme offers its own angle to what K.M. Weiland teaches.

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  • Outstanding Resource for Your Writing

    I have taught creative writing for years and read various books on writing, to include many of K .M. Weiland’s books. I only wish I had this book Writing Your Story's Theme by K.M. Weiland back then. It would have been so much easier to teach young students what Theme is and means to the story. She shows how Theme affects the character and action to create the complete story. K.M. ties all the literary elements together to show that theme must be the most important points in your writing. It is well worth your time to read this and other books by her.

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  • Great Advice on Theme in Stories

    An outstanding explanation of how to write a story with a meaningful theme without being preachy. It provides detailed and clear instructions on how to write a story in which the theme is fully integrated with the plot. Full disclosure: I received a free copy of the e-book in exchange for this honest review.

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  • A Thorough Look at a Misunderstood Concept

    K.M. Weiland is absolutely correct. Theme is as much an integral part of any story as plot and character. Yet despite this, it is almost never mentioned directly, save for the constant warning to avoid any emphasis on theme. Her book explains how, still without too much direct emphasis, it still can become a part of each page and end up as the reason readers remember your book. This lesson is not only important but also unique, something few have actually explored at such length. The understanding of such a difficult concept is also aided by K. M. Weiland’s use of numerous examples, from both literature and cinema, of examples we have already read or seen, and how they used the same principles to create their own memorable work. She also includes an appendix elaborating the analysis of the character arcs. Her work on characters was the first of her books I read, Creating Character Arcs, and reading it as well will aid anyone considerably in writing. However, the appendix ensures that this book is just as powerful on its own as with her other works. I received a copy of this book for my honest review. However, that does not in any way change my thorough enjoyment reading it, studying it, and applying it to my own writing. I recommend this work with no hesitation to any writer, whether just starting out or well into the field, who wishes to explore this little-known yet fundamental part of writing.

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  • Theme is the Great conversation which entertains

    Review of Writing your story's theme The book explores theme and how it shapes a story. For all books have one whether conscious or not. Nevertheless, many writers either neglect theme or unsure how to conceive it. Writing your story's theme is K.M. Weiland's latest book. She explains in clear and concise language of how writers can develop a theme for their story. She uses a unifying tripartite structure mirroring the 3 act structure in Western story telling. Theme is interdependent leg with plot and character, Neither leg is independent from the other abd each reinforces that other to drive the story to its conclusion. The author reassures writers, particularly in fiction, theme need not be explicit nor reductive to over sermonizing. A timely reassurance given the trends in Anglophone literature. Rather, well-fleshed out characters and a compelling plot will invariably bring out the theme or even a series of themes. Theme, as a term of art, infuses characters with agency reacting through the actions within a plot. She further breaks down how theme emerges from characters through their internal and external conflicts; their wants and needs and the Lie they live by and the Truth they need to complete their destinies. The author also discusses how theme also shapes the characters . The subsequent chapter distinguishes between plot and theme. The distinction while subtle is an important one. Plot is how the story will move as well as proving a skeletal framework for both the character and the theme to have their setting. When plot and theme meet, you get a story with the characters acting and reacting to the former. I highly recommend this book. It's not only a useful guide for writers; it's a great resource for secondary and post secondary students. Both they and readers learn many cogent insights that are equally applicable to reading. Thus making the latter activity as delightful as reading...and less onerous. Writing, especially fictional, is to engage the reader in the Great Conversation in an entertaining fashion where readers can temporarily escape their everyday and enjoy themselves. Writing is both teleogical- its end is to entertain and delight its audience-and theological, writers have something to say about the human condition. Readers are free to accept, reject or argue with the themes emerging from characters interacting with plots. I highly recommend the book. Its clarity and cogency are a delight to read as well as reassuring writers theme need not be something ponderous nor dismissed but something essential to storytelling.

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