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9 Steps for Adding Genuine Depth to Your Story

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9 Steps for Adding Genuine Depth to Your Story

(Or Ridding Your Story of Pseudo-depth)


When writing a story, one of the most important aspects to the writer will be the themes. In other words, the message you want to tell the world through your characters, plot, and struggles. However, even stories with a good message often fail on a number of levels, or else try to be deep but come off sounding ridiculous. Today, I'm going to talk about how to create genuine depth in the themes, characters, and dialogue of your story, without turning it into a sermon.


Step 1: Focus on the story and perfect it, long before you worry about the themes.

This is the single greatest failing of most stories with messages. The writer is so focused on them, that they forget the medium altogether. And as important as you think a message is, it is worthless if devoid of a concrete story. So craft your story around something tangible and solid—something that would be wonderful if there were no message whatsoever.


Step 2: Identify the themes in your story.

When your completed draft is ready for editing, you'll want to go through your story, and circle/segregate every monologue (both spoken and thought), major confrontation, and epiphany reached by your characters. These will most likely be the places where your themes show up prominently. If you are having trouble identifying the themes, find the lessons that your characters learned, and what the natural consequences of their actions were.


Step 3: Identify in one sentence what your character is saying, learning, or teaching in that segment.

Identifying your moral, theme, or message, and being able to say them in one sentence is the first step in making sure that each theme is concrete, and not some vague tangle of thoughts. If you cannot do this, edit that segment until it makes enough sense so that you can.


Step 4: Note that the consequences of actions may provide themes that you don't want.

If you are writing a romantic story, you may inadvertently make your character's world magically perfect after they get the girl or guy of their dreams. Whether you want it or not, this creates a natural theme of its own—that getting a romantic partner will fix your life and make it perfect. Which is, of course, untrue. Always make sure that consequences within a story line up with reality, and teach a lesson that is truly worth noting.


Step 5: Make sure that your themes are true on a literal level.

Make sure that the themes are literally true, at least in the world you are writing in. If your intended moral is that “true love conquers all,” you must take into account the falseness of the statement. True love does not conquer AIDS, cancer, death, or a great number of other things. Otherwise, your story will be perceived as shallow, and will not resonate with the reality that your readers live in.


Step 6: Remember that universal themes with realistic evidence are the most powerful.

If you want a genuinely good theme, make sure that it applies to all people. For example, the theme that if you work hard, you will succeed in life, may only apply to first-world countries with laws against slavery. Teaching that hard and noble work is better than laziness, however, may resonate as being more universal, and thereby more profound.


Step 7: Know that the simpler and more basic your themes, the better.

If you are having difficulty coming up with a profound theme, remember that simplicity is better. Life is hard—that is a solid and meaningful theme that has inspired some of the best works of literature. Kindness towards one another will make the world a better place—is another simple but true message that is not contrived, or riddled with holes and fake promises. Don't try to promise a happily ever after, absolute justice or fairness, or external reward for goodness; and don't try to imitate Hollywood's attempts at blowing their audience's mind with thickly veiled stupidity.


Step 8: Show, don't tell.

The single most important rule is to show the themes, don't tell them. Your narrator and characters may discuss an obvious dilemma or themes, but this should be for the purpose of getting your audience to begin chewing on those thoughts. The actions of your characters, and the consequences of those actions will be what ultimately portray the theme. Note the effectiveness of Romeo and Juliet's deaths as a model for teaching the harms of racism and hatred, versus two friends of different color talking about good it is to not be racist.


Step 9: Don't demonize opposition to your themes—embrace them.

The last step is to imagine how people would disagree with your themes. This role will often be portrayed through the antagonist or villain. Do not demonize them in the story, if you want your theme to contain genuine power. Show what events would have led your antagonist to the opposite conclusion, embrace the problems, and try to deal with them respectfully and with strength. Otherwise, your audience may perceive you to be naive, or unable to take criticism—imposing the same problems on the themes in your story.


Feel free to comment with other suggested resources. Any questions about writing? Things you want me to discuss? Comment or send me a message and I will be glad to reply or feature my response in a later article. If you enjoy my reviews, please feel free to share my articles with friends, add it to your favorites, become a watcher on my page, or send send a llama my way!


Originally posted at www.facebook.com/JosephBlakePa… (Feel free to “Like” and subscribe)

And: josephblakeparker.wix.com/theb…


When writing a story, one of the most important aspects to the writer will be the themes. In other words, the message you want to tell the world through your characters, plot, and struggles. However, even stories with a good message often fail on a number of levels, or else try to be deep but come off sounding ridiculous. Today, I'm going to talk about how to create genuine depth in the themes, characters, and dialogue of your story, without turning it into a sermon.  

Feel free to comment with other suggested resources. Any questions about writing? Things you want me to discuss? Comment or send me a message and I will be glad to reply or feature my response in a later article. If you enjoy my reviews, please feel free to share my articles with friends, add it to your favorites, become a watcher on my page, or send send a llama my way!


Originally posted at www.facebook.com/JosephBlakePa… (Feel free to “Like” and subscribe)

And: josephblakeparker.wix.com/theb…


Published:
© 2015 - 2021 DesdemonaDeBlake
Comments29
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DEW1TT's avatar

Hey!

I just thought to let you know I attempted to read your '9 Steps for Adding Genuine Depth to Your Story' piece but was unable to due to it appearing to be blacked out...

Not sure if this is an issue on my end or yours. Either way, I wanted you to be aware.

DesdemonaDeBlake's avatar
Thank you for letting me know. I'm not experiencing that problem in either this mode or eclipse mode, though there could always be a compatibility issue with whatever device you are using. However, I honestly have no idea where the problem is. Though I highly appreciate you letting me know, I am probably going to leave it as is because this tutorial is VERY old and in need of a much-needed rewrite, which I am in the process of. However, I will send you the text via Note so you can read it if you wish.

Thanks again!
DEW1TT's avatar

Thank you!

It is much appreciated.

I'm always looking for advice which is what drew me to your piece on this subject.

ThatWritingWolf's avatar
at this rate I'm gonna end up having favourite this entire folder! these are extremely helpful as well so thank you :D
DesdemonaDeBlake's avatar
Haha, feel free :) I'm glad you've enjoyed!
Mirage-Epoque's avatar
Reading this helps me a lot to give my story the depth I want to convey. :)
Thank you for making this! :D
DesdemonaDeBlake's avatar
Awesome :) So good to hear!
hopeburnsblue's avatar
I sure do love these! You do really well in putting them together.
DesdemonaDeBlake's avatar
Thank you very much :)
Alloci's avatar
Thank you! I do have a question, though. I've been writing a story, and I have kinda-stupidly-forgot to think about the theme first. I know, embarrassing, right? So, are there any less explored themes that I might be able to use?
DesdemonaDeBlake's avatar
Well, to be honest, it's rather difficult and often artificial to impose a theme on your story, after the fact. I would advise you to really look at the flaws in your protagonist, as well as the ideals that cause the clash between the protagonist and the antagonist. Those ideals that they are fighting over, or what your hero has to grow to overcome, will be the best places from which to get a prominent theme for the story. 
Alloci's avatar
it might be a bit difficult. I can't really seem to be able to find a "proper" antagonist. The antagonist isn't physical-It's sometimes the "threat" of death in a life or death situation, and the others can kinda "switch" from being a protagonist to an antagonist, depending on how you look at it. Perhaps it would be more like "The world isn't that black or white"?

I'm just not 100% sure it's a relatable theme, so I wondered if you could help me a bit.
Dracozombie's avatar
You don't necessarily need an antagonist so long as the story has conflict. "Someone can be good or evil depending on your point of view" sounds like a great theme. Your protagonist and antagonist will shift depending on the current viewpoint, and such a setup would be suited for the theme you came up with.

You shouldn't sweat about not having a clear theme going into your story. It's actually better you don't, so a message develops naturally from the ideas you think of and how their outcomes are treated. However, if you absolutely need to have a story revolve around a certain theme, it'd would help to think, "What kind of plot, setting, and characters would let me explore this theme?" But since you apparently have an outline, it'd be better to look at your ideas first. If you can draw your planned theme out of your ideas, then great. If not, either tweak your current ideas, or tweak the theme. It depends on what you're more willing to sacrifice: your ideas, or your message.
Alloci's avatar
thank you for your input! I'll definitely be keeping this comment in my messages until the end of time haha
DesdemonaDeBlake's avatar
If you send me an professional-looking outline of your story via note or some other medium, I would be glad to look at it and give you some ideas :) 
Alloci's avatar
Oh-It's all messy and on paper, I still have to find time to type it all up. I'll get to it when I have it all neat xp
Alloci's avatar
Awesome! Thanks for the offer ;u;
HopeSwings777's avatar
:kiss:  for posting this!
sevenofeleven's avatar
"Whether you want it or not, this creates a natural theme of its own—that getting a romantic partner will fix your life and make it perfect. Which is, of course, untrue. Always make sure that consequences within a story line up with reality, and teach a lesson that is truly worth noting. "

I am not sure about this. The consequences lining up with reality part is not quite right.
Yes, if you are writing non fiction but some sorts of fiction are far away from reality but still have powerful themes.

I think the only reality this is important for fiction writers is the one inside, characters must act/feel realistically in some way. The environment could be totally fictional but if the people act realistic, the story is grounded.

The only reality you need to be concerned with in fiction is the reality inside the story.
DesdemonaDeBlake's avatar
I believe you misunderstand. I'm not saying that you can't learn from fantasy or fiction, only that consequences of your story should be realistic, no matter what genre you write in. For example: if you betray your friends, you have hurt the friendship. This would be universal, whether you were in an enchanted forest or in the Bronx. An example of what I'm warning against would be, in any genre, the betrayer saying "I'm sorry" and the friendship being magically mended. No matter what universe you're in, that would me a false message and an affront to what the reader knows to be true. 
sevenofeleven's avatar
Good.
Now I understand.
Rovanna's avatar
This is really useful! Themes are tricky. I love #2 about identifying themes. :)
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