Archive for October, 2010

Recently, my school hosted Kate Klise for an author visit. We have one every year, and the kids are always excited to hear the stories behind the books they check out from our library.

Have you read Kate and Sarah Klise’s book DYING TO MEET YOU? It’s an award-winning gem of a story about a scrappy kid, a persistent ghost, and a grumpy old scribbler all sharing the same rambling house on 43 Old Cemetary Road.

Read it and you’ll understand why it’s on so many awards lists.

It should be no surprise that Kate’s visit was fantastic. She was funny. Engaging. Honest. Real.

The kids loved her. They laughed at her stories and listened to what to she had to say about writing a good book.

And me? Well, when she started talking about the protagonist’s journey, my ears perked up.

Kate drew a circle and explained that every story needs at least one character with one problem. The character takes a circular journey and grapples with the conflict. At the end of the journey the protagonist returns home (figuratively and/or literally) a changed person. 

An interesting character + A compelling problem + A tranformative journey. 

See? That’s all you need to entrance a reader. Kate’s thoughts really stuck with me. The circle she drew keeps spinning around in my mind.

How about you? What do you think are the crucial elements of a great story?

Hungry for More? Then try this recipe for HALLOWEEN PUMPKIN SPICE CAKE. It’s perfect for curling up with a spook-tacular read this week.


My agent once pointed out that both my current project and my new WIP explore similar themes. She meant this in the best possible way, and her observation holds true. I really do like to play with good vs. evil, alive vs. afterlife, heaven vs. hell.

I also read a lot of books and watch a lot of TV (SUPERNATURAL, anyone?) and movies with those same motifs.  Blame it on Star Wars or Indiana Jones or those hot Winchester Brothers… but I adore stories dripping with epic stakes, spiritual overtones, and classic symbolism.

What can I say? I just love a good variation on a theme.

And I’m not alone.

Donald Maass, in Writing the Breakout Novel, asserts theme transforms a manuscript into “more than just a story.” He believes theme is integral, emerging “from the very substance of the story.” While the patterns and messages of theme are finessed in final drafts, they can’t be tacked on or artificially manufactured. Themes begin in the subconscious and develop organically.

Mary Kole, my Abfab Agent, has also addressed this topic on her blog. She believes that in any work, “there should be distinct themes and ideas that you [can] point to as the center of your book.” To her, theme is “like magic… connections you never knew you’d made, common images and ideas that resonate with the larger meaning of your work, all sorts of interesting stuff.”

In her post, she explains how to develop these connections.

Looking for other resources on THEME? Try reading these:

STORY by Robert McKee

THE POWER OF MYTH by Joseph Campbell


List of Common Themes in Literature by Janice E. Patten

That’s a lot of THEMES…tell me, which ones do you write and dream about?

Hungry for more? Try this recipe for Angelic Peach Trifle. You’ll enjoy the layers and the subtle almond flavor.