Back from My Hiatus, and with a New DIY MFA Article!


Setting in stories isn’t discussed as frequently as plot and characters. Yet it’s just as important, using location, time period, and other elements to play a pivotal role, from establishing the protagonist’s “normal world” to creating natural or societal obstacles that the characters will face. But did you know that, in some cases, a story’s setting can also be the garden from which some of its themes can grow? The idea intrigued me enough that I devoted my latest Theme: A Story’s Soul article at DIY MFA to it. Continue reading

New DIY MFA Article on the Act I Choice, Plus a New Worksheet!

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After my recent DIY MFA post on themes arising from the inciting incident, I wondered whether other major plot points could also reflect a story’s heart. So, the newest installment of my Theme: A Story’s Soul column does just that. Today we look at the pivotal choice that ends Act I, or the “Point of No Return” that was covered in the Character Evolution Files.

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New DIY MFA Article on Antagonists, Plus a New Worksheet + The DIY MFA Book!

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Most writers would agree that the relationship (or rather, conflict?) between the protagonist and the antagonist is one of the most important “bonds” in a story. How important, though? More than we might think. In my latest Theme: A Story’s Soul post at DIY MFA, we examine how this unique relationship offers a goldmine of literary themes through the characters’ interactions and conflicting goals.  Continue reading

New DIY MFA Post on Inciting Incidents, Plus A New Worksheet + Storytelling Superpowers

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An inciting incident has a crucial and unique responsibility in novel-writing. Sure, it’s the first major plot point in a story – but it also launches the protagonist into the main conflict and sparks the beginning of his character arc. And as we discover in today’s Developing Themes In Your Stories post at DIY MFA, it’s also one of the first scenes in the story where literary themes can bloom. Continue reading

New DIY MFA Post on Themes in Symbolism, New Worksheet, + Awesome Surprise!

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Remember my Developing Themes In Your Stories series that DIY MFA ran last year? It’s back! Today’s Theme: A Story’s Soul post tackles symbolism, one of the most thought-provoking yet challenging aspects of novel-writing. Don’t be intimidated, though – it turns out that symbolism is more closely connected to theme than we might think. It starts by knowing what kinds of symbols we can draw from and which questions we should ask to help us find the right symbols to reflect our story’s themes. Continue reading

New DIY MFA Article on Dialogue and Themes, Plus a New Worksheet and Writer Igniter Con 2015

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The “Developing Themes in Your Stories” series continues at DIY MFA today!  This fourth installment centers on dialogue, one of my favorite aspects of novel-writing. It’s also one of the most common storytelling elements to showcase theme. Using examples and writing exercises, we’ll learn how to explore theme via dialogue through the basic “nuts and bolts” of a conversation, emotional subtext, and repetition.

Click here to read “Developing Themes In Your Stories: Part Four – Dialogue.” Continue reading

New DIY MFA Article and Worksheet on External Conflict Themes

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Time for the next installment of “Developing Themes in Your Stories”! So far, this special series on my DIY MFA column Theme: A Story’s Soul has covered how character arcs and a story’s premise can reflect literary themes. For this third piece, the focus turns to the external conflict. This crucial element does a lot more than set the stage and circumstances that trigger the story. We’ll look at how brainstorming “what if” scenarios and considering the results or consequences of your protagonist’s decisions can unearth a story’s themes.

Click here to read “Developing Themes In Your Stories: Part Three – The External Conflict.”

New Worksheet on External Conflict Themes

Like with the character arc and premise themes articles, I’ve developed an External Conflict Themes Worksheet that contains the activities from the above article. Feel free to download the document to your computer and print it out for your “thematic exploration.” 😉

Also, the External Conflict Themes Worksheets is the first worksheet to feature the new website’s “branding.” I plan on updating the existing worksheets with similar branding in the near future.

Click here to visit Worksheets for Writers and download a PDF copy of the External Conflict Themes Worksheet.

Got any questions or suggestions for Theme: A Story’s Soul? Feel free to comment below or tweet me at @SaraL_Writer with the hashtag #AStorysSoul.

New DIY MFA Article and Worksheet on Premise Themes

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Last month at DIY MFA, we launched the four-part series “Developing Themes in Your Stories” with a piece on consciously developing themes using the protagonist’s character arc. Today, it’s all about premise themes. Believe it or not, that single sentence that sums up your story (a.k.a. your 140-character Twitter pitch) actually hints at potential literary themes. How is this possible? And, how can you build your premise sentence if you don’t have one yet? All of that is covered in “Developing Themes In Your Stories: Part 2 – The Premise.” Click here to read it.

New Worksheet on Premise Themes

Why not? 🙂 A number of readers were excited about the Character Arc Themes Worksheet when it posted. So, I thought I’d make one available for premise themes as well. This new worksheet is comprised of the three activities in “Developing Themes In Your Stories: Part 2 – The Premise” and can help you go from story pitch to premise sentence, and finally to themes.

Click here to visit Worksheets for Writers and download a PDF copy of the Premise Themes Worksheet.

Got any questions or suggestions for Theme: A Story’s Soul? Feel free to comment below or tweet me at @SaraL_Writer with the hashtag #AStorysSoul.

New DIY MFA Article and Worksheet on Character Arc Themes

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So far at Theme: A Story’s Soul for DIY MFA, we’ve featured articles that deal mainly with themes and reading. However, since DIY MFA is first and foremost a resource website for writers, it’s time we tackle how to write with themes in mind – or rather, how to consciously develop our story’s themes without forcing them.

Today I’m excited to launch a special four-part Theme: A Story’s Soul series called “Developing Themes in Your Stories.” Part 1 focuses on character arc themes and features a brainstorming activity to help you discover potential themes in a story idea before you start writing the story. That way, you’ll know your story’s themes upfront instead of digging for them later. 😉

Click here to read “Developing Themes In Your Stories: Part 1 – The Character Arc.”

New Worksheet on Character Arc Themes

Yes, I’ve posted a brand new worksheet for you today! The Character Arc Themes Worksheet is formatted as a table to help you complete the exercises given in the coinciding DIY MFA article. This worksheet was a last-minute idea, so that’s why I’m making it available here without the DIY MFA branding.

Click here to visit Worksheets for Writers and download a PDF copy of the Character Arc Themes Worksheet.

Got any questions or suggestions for Theme: A Story’s Soul? Feel free to comment below or tweet me at @SaraL_Writer with the hashtag #AStorysSoul.