path of the storyteller / blog

Thinking about theme

theme Aug 20, 2022

I had a great conversation this week with The Christian Science Monitor about ALICE’S FARM, A RABBIT’S TALE. You can see it here

We talk about vulnerability, bravery, and hope, and how these ideas are expressed in the book. 

In short, we talk about theme. Which got me thinking: Where do the themes of our books come from? At what point in our creative process does theme coalesce? 

Do we put theme in on purpose? Does it bubble up on its own? Is it even our responsibility, or are readers free to decode our themes however they like? 

These are interesting questions, and they’re far from academic. When our books fly the nest and wander out in the world, it will indeed be their themes that people want to talk about, and that will attract or repel readers.

All storytelling ends up expressing theme whether we put it there intentionally or not. In this talk I invite you to explore how we can think about theme in a way that...

Continue Reading...

What makes it a “classic?”


Last week I raised the question of what makes creative work endure because I was thinking about Shakespeare. But did Shakespeare set out to write “classic” plays?

In his professional life he was an ever-hustling playwright-slash-entrepreneur, his time stretched (thinly, we can only imagine) between churning out the plays that kept his company afloat and the ceaseless daily business of running a theatre. 

Talk about slings and arrows! Shakespeare dealt with snide critics, box office receipts, actors who went off-script, not to mention the recurrent bouts of plague that closed London’s theaters for months at a time.

Creatively, he walked the fine line between writing from the heart while finessing the sensitivities of his royal patrons. His work had to engage the nobility at court and the commoners, too, including the “groundlings” who paid a mere penny to stand there,...

Continue Reading...

who’s the boss of your book?


One of my Path of the Storyteller students recently asked a great question: After making a commitment (which she is nailing, by the way!) to just buckle down and write her draft to the end without looking back, she’s already wondering how to face what she now fears may be an unmanageably sloppy first draft. 

Who can relate? It’s one thing to rewrite a sentence, but how can you not feel overwhelmed by the thought of fixing ALL THE THINGS when what you’re staring at is a sixty thousand word draft?

Deep breaths, my friends. You are the boss of your book. It has no choice but to do what you say.

That’s the subject of this livestream. If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed at the prospect of seizing the reins of your runaway draft— or gripped by the fear that your attempts to unravel the knots will only make things worse—this talk will remind you just who’s in charge!

My weekly...

Continue Reading...

whose story is it?

The story of Thanksgiving that I was taught growing up was mostly a bunch of hooey. 

That familiar fiction of friendly Pilgrims and helpful Native Americans getting along feels terrific to tell and hear, if that’s the only story you know. It has no bad guys. It both instructs and inspires. If only we could all be so peaceful, welcoming, and cooperative! 

The problem, of course, is that it’s not the truth. There’s a gut-wrenching history of slaughter and appropriation just outside the margins of the tale that I was taught as a child. 

In terms of writing craft, we’re talking about point of view. Who’s doing the telling? To whom? And, importantly, to what end?

It’s said that history is written by the victors, but serious historians are always challenging the narratives offered by their predecessors. New research and new perspectives can’t change what happened in the past, but they can...

Continue Reading...

50% Complete

storytelling is golden

Welcome to Path of the Storyteller, where writers come to level up. Please add your info below, click the button, and let the adventure begin!