What does it mean when someone describes a story as “preachy”? It doesn’t mean the story is religious. Rather, it means the story’s themes are presented in a forceful or one-sided manner – an approach that often turns readers off. So, in today’s edition of Theme: A Story’s Soul at DIY MFA, I share three writing mistakes that can lead to preachy themes in a story, as well as solutions for each that can bring more subtlety, balance, and realism to how those themes are portrayed. Continue reading
Here’s a question for any writers who are reading this: At what point in the writing process do you start paying attention to your story’s themes? Does theme even cross your mind as you’re brainstorming, drafting, or revising a story? If you answered “no” – don’t worry, your story probably still contains themes . However, it always helps to have a strong awareness of themes. So in my latest DIY MFA article, we explore ways in which you can develop that awareness at each stage of the process, and how that awareness can improve more than just the story.
Also, a fun fact for you: The conversation I mention during the article’s introduction eventually inspired me to pitch the Theme: A Story’s Soul column to DIY MFA. 😉
OK, confession time: I’ve been looking forward to covering this theme for a while. 😉 And while revenge is typically considered a literary masterplot, such stories can highlight intriguing insights into what happens when someone seeks vengeance for a perceived wrong. So, with the help of a classic revenge novel (Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights) and a recent spin on superheroes (V.E. Schwab’s Vicious), I explored the theme in my latest post at DIY MFA. Which storytelling elements do these stories use to shed light on this dark, complex theme? You’ll have to read on to find out!
Every story, regardless of its length, pulses with literary themes at its heart. So for this week’s edition of “Theme: A Story’s Soul” at DIY MFA, I turn the column’s focus from novels to short stories. With the help of examples from authors Alethea Black and Ted Chiang, we’ll explore how short stories effectively examine their themes despite – or maybe because of – their word count restrictions and smaller “big picture.”
So, way back in August when I was at Writer’s Digest Conference, I joined several of my DIY MFA colleagues for a team podcast recording for DIY MFA Radio. 😀 It was SO much fun, and we talked about WDC, our tips on writing and attending literary conferences, and our DIY MFA “origin stories” (a.k.a. how we became involved with the site). The podcast is finally available for everyone to listen to on DIY MFA’s Patreon page for free. (In other words, you don’t have to be a paying patron to access it.) This episode is also a great resource for writers who are looking for tips on pitching their manuscript to agents.
In my latest Theme: A Story’s Soul post at DIY MFA, I dive into a literary theme that’s difficult for writers to explore and painful for characters (and people in real life) to experience. Isolation isn’t the same as sequestering yourself during an illness or retreating somewhere to meditate. Rather, it’s a state of aloneness in which, because of your location or emotional state, you feel cut off from others. And when a story effectively illustrates isolation as a literary theme despite its challenges, it can offer intriguing insights about setting, relationships, and the human spirit.
When I noticed my next DIY MFA post was scheduled for the week of Valentine’s Day, I decided it was time for a case study on an appropriate and timeless theme: Love. If you think about it, though, love is one of the most frequently discussed and deeply profound themes in literature. Plus, the most compelling thematic explorations of love touch on romantic love as well as love of other forms (kindness, compassion) and in other types of relationships (friendship, family). This is the case with the two example novels in today’s Theme: A Story’s Soul post, and I hope you *love* the end result (or, at least find it informative). 😉
Remember how I said that I’m changing my posting schedule next week? That’s because I have two posts for you this week, including my first DIY MFA article of 2018. 😉
Today it’s a case study on legacy and immortality, themes that aren’t examined frequently in literature but can be insightful and profound when that examination is done well. So what makes Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel a brilliant example? By using a museum, historic plays, and two characters who represent different ways of building a legacy that can impact the next generation.
One theme I’ve wanted to cover for a while at my DIY MFA column is identity: who we are, what we want to be, and all of the joys and complications that comes with those explorations. This theme can be found in books across all genres, but it happens quite frequently in YA literature – frequently enough, in fact, that I opted to do something different than my usual case study. Thus, today’s post offers insights on how identity is addressed in YA lit, its importance to readers in this age group, and what to keep in mind if your YA manuscript covers this theme.
Who doesn’t love a good book series? If the first installment draws me in, I can’t help but continue on with the next book, and the next, revisiting characters that have become old friends, getting lost in their world and predicaments, and (in some cases) connecting with their themes. Which got me thinking: How do literary themes present themselves in a series? You can find the answers to that question, as well as what writers should consider when it comes to “serial themes,” at my latest Theme: A Story’s Soul article at DIY MFA.