Writing Tips & Tools

Monday, August 20, 2007

Lesson 32: Theme - Other Characters

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.

This is the third and final exercise to this chapter. This one is entitled Same Problem, Other Characters!

Step 1: What is the main problem in the novel?

Step 2: Who else in the story besides your protagonist could have that problem? How would it manifest differently for these other characters?

Step 3: Incorporate the results of the previous step into the story. Make notes!

Note: Theme is not smeared onto your story in the final draft. Like frosting on a cake. Rather, it emerges from the very substance of the story. To make your theme large and resonant, let it work in your story in more ways than one. It doesn't matter that the central problem is different for other characters. Your variations on the theme will only reinforce the themes itself.

Follow-up: Who in your story could have the oppositeproblem? Incorporate that into your novel!

Conclusion: Just as it is advisable to strengthen your theme, it is also no problem to run counter to it. Does your hero rescue his family from the wilderness, struggling against nature? What about the hermit who helps them? He lives at peace with nature, yes? His struggle man be the opposite: to connect again with his fellow man.


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