Writing Tips & Tools

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Lesson 32: Theme - Larger Problem

by Bonnie Calhoun

Today we continue with Donald Maass' Writing a Breakout Novel.

What I am going to endeavor to do here is present truncated versions of each of the lessons in the workbook. This will by no means suffice as an alternative to reading the book...or the workbook. I hope it piques your appetite to buy the books. They are invaluable reading and reference!

Today's lesson is in Section THREE: Theme.

Yesterday we went over Theme, and the exercise was about alternate endings. Today we'll do "the Larger Problem" as an exercise.

Step: 1 Thinking about the story as a whole, what is the main problem facing your protagonist?

Step: 2 What is the bigger problem beyond that?

Step: 3 What is the problem that your protagonist cannot solve?

Step: 4 Find ways to introduce into the story the bigger problem and the problem that cannot be solved. How can that be accomplished?

Note: What public issues stir you up. If you could change the world what would you change. Allow the words to emerge from not only your heart, but from your protagonists problems!

Follow-up: What is the main problem in your protagonists second plot layer? Write it down and follow the steps above to develop a secondary theme.

Conclusion: Every issue conceals a bigger issue. At the heart of every big issue is a dilemma that has no answer. While it may sound downbeat to introduce these elements into your story, in fact they will amplify the problem at hand. the ripples that they send outward in your readers minds are, in essence, your novel's deepest issues, or to put in another way, it's theme at work!


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