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Yes, You Do Need a Theme

Last week we looked at the need to ditch all the back story in our first scene (well, actually the first fifty pages, but we are focusing on just your first scene right now). Now we’ll take a look at another essential element that you must develop right away and that’s theme.

Do you really have to have a theme for your book? Not necessarily in a formal sense, but think about theme as some essential take-away thought you want to leave your reader with when they finish the book. Theme speaks to your plot, but more so to the heart of your story. One way to get to your theme is to ask yourself just why you are writing this book, anyway.

Do you have a message or something you want to say to your readers, some commentary on life, society, government, faith, or some other issue? Even if you are not trying to push a “message” per se, your book should be about something. Continue Reading…

Hold Back the Back Story

Because I read hundreds of first chapters of novels a year as a writing coach, contest judge, and copyeditor, I’ve been compiling my list of essentials for a first scene.

When you think of all you have to accomplish in the first few pages of a novel, you really understand how writing a great first scene requires numerous hours of study, practice, and concentration. It takes examining successful, long-lasting novels to see how that first scene was constructed.

Have you ever read a first chapter that took your breath away? Made you cry? Shocked you? If you can accomplish an emotional reaction in your reader that quickly—hopefully by a quick attachment to your protagonist—half your battle is won. Continue Reading…

The Place Where All Stories Begin

I thought it would be appropriate to start the New Year focusing on beginnings. Most authors know that the beginning or opening of a novel is the most crucial and carries the weightiest burden of any other scene or chapter in your entire book. The opening scene must convey so many things that often the author will have to rewrite it numerous times to get it right, and sometimes the best time to rewrite the opening scene is when your novel is done.

Why? Because at that point you have (hopefully) developed your rich themes and motifs, thoroughly explored your protagonist’s heart and character arc, and have brought your plot to a stunning and satisfying conclusion (you can be sure we’ll be going in depth regarding ending scenes later on).

Continue Reading…

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