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Coaching KidLit Episode 29: Thematic Depth

Coaching KidLit – EPISODE 29:

Thematic Depth

In this episode of Coaching KidLit, hosts Sharon Skinner and Christy Yaros dive deep into the concept of theme in KidLit writing.

They discuss how to think about theme as the overarching idea of a book, touching on Cheryl Klein’s concepts of experiential, emotional, and thematic points. They also emphasize the importance of connecting with the reader through characters’ emotional journeys and how different themes can be explored at varying levels of KidLit, from picture books to young adult novels.

They also cover the significance of revision and layering in developing rich, thematic content, and advise writers on planning and revising with theme in mind, using practical examples and actionable advice to help writers enhance their work.

Books Mentioned:

The Magic Words by Cheryl Klein
Clark the Shark by Bruce Hale (Author), Guy Francis (Illustrator)
Saturdays Are for Stella by by Candy Wellins (Author), Charlie Eve Ryan (Illustrator)
Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn
Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
The Leaping Laddoo by Harshita Jerath and Kamala M. Nair

Key Topics Covered:

  • Themes in Kidlit
  • Thematic content
  • Making thematic statements versus exploring thematic questions
  • The danger of didacticism
  • Significance of revision and layering in developing richer stories
  • Planning and revising with theme in mind




[00:00:00] Sharon Skinner: Welcome to Coaching KidLit, a podcast about writing and publishing good KidLit.

[00:00:07] Christy Yaros: We dig into various aspects of writing craft through a KidLit lens and provide inspiration and clear actionable items to help writers like you move forward on their KidLit writing journeys.

[00:00:19] Sharon Skinner: I’m Sharon Skinner. Author Accelerator, certified book coach, and author of speculative fiction and KidLit, including picture books, middle grade, and young adult.

[00:00:31] Christy Yaros: And I’m Christy yaros, author accelerator, certified book coach, and story editor, focusing on KidLit, including middle grade and young adult. Hey, Sharon.

[00:00:42] Sharon Skinner: Hey, Christy. How are you?

[00:00:44] Christy Yaros: I’m good. How are you? Are you ready to talk about theme today?

[00:00:50] Sharon Skinner: I am, I’m excited about this. So I want to start by saying that what I think about when I think about theme is I think of it as like when you’re writing a thesis.

When you come up with an idea, you don’t always know what your thematic statement or topic or thesis statement will be, but you always have a big idea of why you’re writing the book, right? Why am I writing this? What is it about? And there’s always that one big overarching idea of love or relationships or social issues or something like that, right?

You’ve always got one big kind of umbrella that you want to put it under. And I think that that’s great, but it’s not going to get you to the deeper meaning of the thematic. And that’s the story that you’re talking about. So I know we both have looked at Cheryl Klein’s books, and she has some ideas about the different types of points in her books.

[00:01:53] Christy Yaros: Yes, and we talked about, obviously we both picked the magic words, uh, when we talked about craft books that were useful to us. She actually has a book. Three different kinds of points that she talks about in The Magic Words, being the experiential point, the emotional point, and the thematic point. What do you think about the way that she breaks those down?

[00:02:16] Sharon Skinner: Well, I liked exploring her thinking on that. I hadn’t really considered it quite in the way that, that she does, especially the experiential point, how the reader feels, because I think she kind of broadens that. It’s not just how the reader feels. At the end of the book, but how you make your reader feel throughout the book when she’s talking about that.

So for me, that kind of falls more toward things like genre. If you’re writing horror, you want your reader to be, be afraid, to, to feel fear and to be worried, and if you’re writing suspense, you want them to have a lot of tension, and if you’re writing. Romance, you want them to have a feel good feel throughout the story.

But I think that was really interesting to me that she pulled out how the reader feels about the work.

[00:03:10] Christy Yaros: One of the things that comes up with some of my writers a lot is the idea that you can’t control how your reader feels, that once it’s out of your hands, it’s up to them. And I can agree with that to a degree.

You can’t control exactly how they’re going to feel, but Having a goal of what you kind of want and writing towards that goal at least gives a cohesive feel. What do you think about that? Have you had writers who have said, like, when you ask the question, like, how do you want your readers to feel? They say, I can’t control that.

That’s up to the reader.

[00:03:46] Sharon Skinner: I guess we sort of have had that conversation, but we come at it from a slightly different direction. And it always comes back for me to target reader. I really want to have that one person, that one reader, who is going to be passionate about the story and the characters just like you are.

And who, at the end of the book, I always say, is going to hug the book and feel seen. So for me, We’re looking at that particular reader’s experience. And yes, there’s always going to be a broader audience. I always like to remind my writers that the fact that you’re niching down to a single vision of a single reader doesn’t mean that you’re only going to have one reader for this book.

You’re going to have a broader audience, but you’re going to have that reader who’s really going to resonate with this particular story in this particular book. And that’s where I think we need to focus that how the reader feels about the book. Again, I’m always aiming for the reader who’s going to, at the end, hug it and feel seen and like they’ve been on a journey.

So Klein also talks about the emotional point, and for her, this is about what the character learns along the way and what the character’s experience is. That emotional journey, I think of it as that emotional journey, that internal journey.

[00:05:04] Christy Yaros: Right, how does the reader connect to what the character is going through?

And if you can’t get your reader to connect, whether they agree or disagree, or how they feel about it, if they have no connection, then you’re not going to hold their interest anyway.

[00:05:16] Sharon Skinner: So that brings us to the third point, and this is something we talk about a lot. And in her book, Klein talks about the thematic point as, what’s it all about?

What is the story about? What is the book about? For me, I like to think of it as not just the thematic point, but the thematic either statement or question. That’s that piece that falls lower in the hierarchy after you’ve got that big umbrella idea of theme. If I’m going to deal with love or hate or vengeance or what have you.

What is the thematic point that comes a little bit more specific? It becomes more a thematic statement, and when I looked at this, you can say a theme is a big thing, like a thematic topic, your theme is love, but a thematic statement needs to be a complete sentence. Like, love conquers all. And that’s where we get into that whole idea of the drilling it down to a bumper sticker kind of level.

[00:06:23] Christy Yaros: Right. Which is kind of more like when we say, what’s the point? Right. Right. But at the same time, it might feel cliche. You can have that and it can be answered in so many different ways. And even depending on what level you’re writing for, if it’s a picture book, if it’s a middle grader, if it’s a young adult, the same kind of question is going to be answered in different ways.

The same theme can be. addressed but targeted at the level that your reader is at and how they in their life at that point in their development can connect to what you’re trying to discuss.

[00:06:58] Sharon Skinner: The themes in KidLit aren’t that different. The big thematic topics aren’t that different from Things that you deal with as an adult, but the way they’re handled, the thematic statement or question that you are actually drilling down to is going to be different depending on the age level of your kids in a lot of ways, and especially the way you explore it.

For example, there are things like self control that, yes, we might need a book on self control if we have anger issues or if we are trying to not eat all the things or whatever as an adult, but as a child, Self control comes down to things like, we don’t eat our classmates, or trying to sit still, like as in Clark the Shark by Bruce Hale, where Clark is big and loud and boisterous and can’t sit still, and is learning how to be just a little bit more chill around in the right moments and be loud and brash and not sit still in the right moments, right, learning that self control. Those are very different how you handle them and what you’re looking at depending on the age group that you’re targeting.

[00:08:04] Christy Yaros: And I think especially if it’s something that a certain age group is just learning for the first time versus A teenager who may already know these things, but the application of it in their life is going to be something different, where maybe self control becomes more of how do I deal with my friendships and how do I deal with dating, following the rules, sitting still, thinking before you leap.

And maybe for a younger child, It’s following the rules, and for a teenager, it’s when to break the rules, when to stand up for yourself. Right.

[00:08:37] Sharon Skinner: As you get older, the way that these things are dealt with become different, and as you go up in category from picture book or concept book up, right, so really concept books are very basic.

You’re not really learning about these kinds of themes. You’re learning about colors and numbers and stuff, and you’re not really learning about them. Love as much, maybe how to love a puppy or how to be gentle or empathetic is pretty basic, right? But in picture books, you’re dealing with the real deal of being a friend or how to deal with relationships or being a good friend versus biting your classmates.

And, and then as you get older, it’s how do your friendships change? When you’re in middle grade, when you’re dealing with friendship or relationships, you’re dealing with You’re changing, they’re changing, everybody’s changing. Some people grow at different rates. How do we figure out where we fit? And friends will fall away for the first time a lot of times when you’re in middle grade because you’re growing differently and in different directions.

And then as teenagers, you get into YA and you’re dealing with, how do I navigate the social structures of being a teenager? Because that becomes a whole nother animal, right? It’s a whole nother level of relationships. And all the cliques and all the groups and all the things that, as middle graders, we grew into.

Right. And now we have to navigate what those are as teenagers. So even something that’s a theme about relationships or friendship can change and grow through the different levels of categories that we’re writing in.

[00:10:24] Christy Yaros: Which is to say, I think that it’s almost like maybe nothing is really off the table as far as what kind of theme you can cover.

It’s just going to be the way that you approach it to make sure that it’s not even appropriate, isn’t even the right word, accessible. Because again, we want that connection between the reader and the story. And if, if you’re talking about the way of handling a theme as an adult to an eight year old, they’re, they don’t have that same connection to it so you have to bring it to something the is the way they experience it

[00:10:58] Sharon Skinner: Yeah, soo thinking of where they are in their growth and in their environment and in their world and their thinking, it matters. So you could have something along the lines of, Family dynamics, where in a kidlit book, you’re dealing with maybe getting a new sibling, and you’re having to navigate having a baby brother or a baby sister in the house, and we see that Saturdays with Stella is a really good example of that.

It’s a lovely book. I can’t think of who wrote it right now. We’ll put it in the notes, but that one is dealing with, but it’s also dealing with loss, right, and grief, so you’re starting to see that in picture books, we can deal with more than one theme in there. The actual thematic point of the book is exploring what it is to get a new sibling and what it is to lose someone, right?

And how do you work through that change? How are you learning to navigate that, those big changes in your world? And then you get up to something like Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDonne, and you’re dealing with family dynamics, sibling relationships, grandparent relationships, estranged relationships, difficult relationships.

And so, if you think about it, it’s not just the change in the dynamic, you’re dealing with these challenges of where do I fit in the world. And I think it’s especially poignant to point out, that’s a big thing in middle grade. Where do I fit? Now, where do I fit in the world? So, In picture book, it’s how does my world, it’s changing and how can I navigate it?

But in the middle grade, it’s where do I fit now in this world? And then in YA, it’s again, how do I navigate this bigger, broader world? Like the Henna Wars by Jaigirdar, Adiba Jaigirdar . She’s dealing with relationships and family and acceptance, but she’s also dealing with coming out in relationship to that, so she’s dealing Wanting to be self accepting, but also afraid that her family won’t accept who she is.

We level up to some really bigger ideas and themes within that, right?

[00:13:18] Christy Yaros: Right. The complexity can change and you go from less of a black and white way of looking at something to adding those nuances as kids grow themselves and can understand those nuances and how there’s different ways of looking at things, which is It brings me to how, as writers, when we’re thinking about this, I think sometimes we get grand ideas of what kind of things we’re going to cover in our stories, and we try and put all the things in about it.

And so we have to be careful in limiting how much we can explore in one story without it feeling too disconnected. And that, um. That can be difficult. Um, but I also think a lot of these things are, maybe you set out to write one thing, let yourself write it, let yourself get through the draft and then take a look and say, what do I have?

And is this what I was trying to do? And if not, what have I done? And maybe I’ve, maybe you thought you were going to answer a question that you already thought you knew the answer to, and instead you ended up exploring it in a different way and came to a different conclusion.

[00:14:33] Sharon Skinner: Yeah. And that comes down to are you writing based on a thematic statement, I’m going to prove my point, or are you writing with a thematic question in mind, I want to explore this. And though they both have their places in the world, I’d be very careful about when you have a thematic statement that you are trying to prove something very specifically, not being didactic.

It can very easily become you on a soapbox preaching about your The way you feel about this rather than allowing the reader to explore it in a way that will help them to make a decision without telling them what to think.

[00:15:17] Christy Yaros: And that’s always something we come up against when writing for kids is being sure not to speak down and not to be didactic because they will see right through that and they will likely put the book down.

[00:15:30] Sharon Skinner: Yeah, it’s not our place to preach in our books When Kids first came out when they first started even having children’s books. Yes, it was all about Miss Manners and etiquette and how children should behave and all of that. Kids are not interested in that. They want a good story. They want to go on a journey. They want to be able to relate to the characters just like all the other readers in the world.

They want to be able to get in there and enjoy this book. At the same time, you can layer in themes and you can layer in these ideas and thematic points in a way that is organic and that the reader can actually experience it. And if you’re exploring it as a thematic question rather than a statement, that’s even grander because you’re allowing the reader room to make their own thought decisions, to have their own thoughts about the story.

One of the ways that we do that is by setting up the characters to show, not tell, the reader what to think and how to experience this particular theme or thematic topic.

[00:16:40] Christy Yaros: And I would go so far as to say that a lot of times when we were talking about the emotional point, the experiential point, the thematic point, That the question you’re trying to answer can be answered via your main character’s arc, where they’re learning that lesson that you’re trying to show.

And so how do you best do that? And then being very deliberate because it is your world. You are the God of your book. You are creating things to that end. And when we talked about the complexity and trying to have complexity without complication, like we’ve talked about in the past of not just piling things on, How do we craft our characters and our plots and our subplots and our settings to all work together to go towards that, those points, those themes that we’re trying to reach?

[00:17:28] Sharon Skinner: Yeah, no, I agree. It’s, but a lot of that, like you said, is done in revision, right? You can focus on it as much as you can focus on it as you’re telling the story, but sometimes just getting the story out is the biggest piece of that when you’re first writing. You can layer in all this other glorious stuff.

The ways to do that are to, first of all, make your characters believable, make them complex, make them interesting people that we want to hang out with who aren’t Mary Sues. They aren’t just a character who’s being affected by the story. They affect the story. They have agency. They have all those things, and they have flaws, and they have strengths, and they have weaknesses, and all the things, and make them very realized and complex.

And then to make all your characters who have a role in the book of any, what I call the primary, secondary, or tertiary levels, who aren’t just walk on, walk off characters, but have a role to play, complex, give them solid backstory and their own worldviews and all of that. And then make those views conflict.

Even your allies in your story, your protagonists. Biggest allies can have places where they have viewpoints that conflict and that can add tension, but it can also compare and contrast throughout the book. If you give them conflicting ideas or views about the topic, then that’s a great place to allow your exploration within the book and compare and contrast in layers so that your reader can really get deeper and have more More opportunity to think more deeply about the theme

[00:19:22] Christy Yaros: if you’re saying love conquers all, give us a character that shows us how love conquers all.

Give us a character or a subplot that shows us what happens when it goes wrong. When some give us somebody who believes love does not conquer all and what does that look like and how and then having your character interact with those things and that keeps you from being didactic, I think one because you are showing all sides of an argument.

And even if you’re still leading to the conclusion that you’re trying to do it, but also I think it shows that’s how we learn, right? If we want to see how to navigate our parents divorce, we look to friends who’ve gone through parents getting divorced. We look at how other people’s parents interact with each other.

We look at the worst case scenarios, the best case scenarios, how we hope to be, what we wish you could be, all of those things and putting those all in there. and making it still feel organic and that you’re not just putting those things in there for the sake of trying to prove your point is it’s part of the job and it’s hard and it’s where revision comes in.

[00:20:40] Sharon Skinner: Yeah. And it goes back to, again, if you’re dealing with a theme, And you’re thinking about that one reader who’s going to really be seen. The thing about reading for me and for most people is that we’re reading not just for pleasure, which we do, we want a good story, but we’re wired for story, right? Like Lisa Cron says, it’s a way for us to experience other lives and how other people navigate those lives and to see how other people may be successfully navigated.

Or maybe unsuccessfully navigate issues in their lives so that we get that experience without having to go out and do that. And we get it in a short, brief, little, what I call, armchair quest that you can do from home and have that experience and see how it feels and try it on. And then decide if I’m going to be the person who believes love conquers all, or the person who doesn’t believe that love even exists, or how am I going to approach the world because of the experience I’ve just had with these characters, not just the protagonist, but the characters throughout the book and their personal experiences.

[00:21:59] Christy Yaros: That’s a great point because now you’re giving that much more of a rich experience to your readers by allowing them to explore the different parts of it and see which one. So maybe your goal is for the reader to feel this way but you don’t know where every reader is coming from and an unintended thing could be that they really connect with that secondary character and the experience that they’re going through and not your protagonist the way that you thought they would, right?

And that’s what’s great. It’s a conversation. You’re opening a conversation with your reader. And allowing them to take it and take what from it what they need at that time.

[00:22:35] Sharon Skinner: Yeah, absolutely. So another area of theme that I, we didn’t really touch on because we’ve touched on a lot of things like family and relationships and school and coming of age and those kinds of things.

Another thematic area that we see a lot in kids books are exploring holidays and traditions and cultural differences for different people. And I think that also is an area that it’s important for us to have because if we, what’s great about it is that you’re teaching empathy without writing about empathy.

You’re teaching people to understand differences without making a whole novel about being tolerant. There are these wonderful in KidLit thematic things that we see that allow for kids to learn things that we’re not even trying to teach them. And not just cultural differences, but differences in who we are. So for example, The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang deals with family and duty, but also gender and society and fashion and politics.

Bravery, love, and friendship. And you get all that in a graphic novel. And it’s got this wonderful emotional resonance. It is saying something beyond just here’s who these people are. So it’s a little different than maybe some of the holiday traditions and cultural books that we get at the picture book level, like books on Diwali and that sort of thing.

I guess that another one that I think is really fun. Another book that falls into that holiday and tradition ones would be a book called The Leaping Laddoo by Harshita Jerath. It’s a retelling of the Gingerbread Man story, but from a different cultural perspective. And you get to see how that culture celebrates weddings and things like that.

It’s a lovely book and it’s fun and she did a really nice job of the rhyming. And the illustrator Kamala Nair did some glorious illustrations for that book. It’s just so much fun.

[00:24:55] Christy Yaros: I’ll check that one out. Not familiar.

So, since one of our main goals with this podcast is helping writers, what sorts of things do you tell your writers to think about when they’re planning?

Because obviously we, you know. Advocate for a certain level of planning. As coaches and when they’re revising to make sure that everything is working to serve this theme.

[00:25:26] Sharon Skinner: So for me, it’s about having that in the back of your brain and letting that subconscious churn really feed the theme as you’re writing.

Once you know what you’re writing about, we talk about what’s the point of your story. We always like the writer to have an idea of what the point is, why they’re telling the story and in the planning, we we’re trained to use the inside outline. So you get both the plot and the, and scene, and then the point or the purpose of that scene.

And those points should tie in thematically to the story that you’re trying to tell, right? That’s that internal and emotional point for the character, but it’s also a nice place to keep thinking, where’s my theme at? And how can I add more conflict from my other characters to compare and contrast that theme?

So I think keeping it in mind as you write, but not allowing it to constrain the writing Because things do emerge organically that you may not have thought of before. And you don’t necessarily want it to be a single thing that you’re dealing with because life isn’t like that. We’re not dealing with one thing.

You want to let yourself allow for some organic exploration of other things that tie into the theme. But like you said, you don’t want the kitchen sink in there. You don’t want to try and deal with all the things all at once. That would be too complicated to pull off really well. And could become didactic very quickly.

And then, for me, depth of a novel comes in revision. Deepening and layering and adding in, and then going through when you do your line edit, using language and setting to set the tone and the mood to enhance just the word choices that you use. I love to get down to that level of the nitty gritty when we’re doing revision and and revising, and then doing the edits.

To really get into the word choices and how you explore the theme through the feel of the book, right, the emotional tone, if you will.

[00:27:42] Christy Yaros: Yeah, I’ve had the pleasure this year of working with a couple of writers right from the very beginning and The difference between thinking about some of this stuff beforehand and purposefully crafting characters and plots and subplots to get to that end has been so fascinating to watch.

And then at the same time, like you said, watching how, when you then sit down to write, how some of that stuff organically morphs into something else and really feeling those layers. And I know we, we did an episode about revision and re envisioning, but I don’t know, this year I’m really feeling with the people that I’ve been working with, how much revision and this, maybe this is a little off topic, but just feel like it needs to be said, how much of a gift revision really is to you as a writer and how much more you can do.

And the people who don’t put in. The time to, to do that envisioning part and thinking about it and being deliberate about this is what I’m trying to do and looking at everything and saying, does this go towards that goal or does it take away from it? And is this unnecessary? It just allows for such, just such more beautiful work.

I don’t know. I’ve just seen it in action a lot this year. And I’m, I, as a coach have gained more of a reverence for the revision process, if you will.

[00:29:10] Sharon Skinner: Yeah, it’s the richness that you can add and the layers and the deepening of the things. And one of the things that I find in my own writing is that organic exploration that happens because I can’t write too tightly to a plan.

I just can’t. I have to let myself go off the path here and there and let my characters breathe and be who they want to be. And I will find these gems. Later when I go back and I’ll think, did I write that? That’s glorious. I need to expand on that. I need to deepen that or make that richer or weave it through in more places because that’s a really cool concept or it’s a really glorious aspect of my character or the story.

And I really want to use that and that’s special sauce, right? That’s some special sauce right there. And I want to spread it around a little more in the book and not just leave it in that one place.

[00:30:08] Christy Yaros: And I think that is something that definitely no matter what level of planning your, you need as a writer.

Having thought of some of that stuff up front does plant the things, like you said, in your subconscious that you obviously, since it’s subconscious, don’t realize that you’re doing until you look at the end and you’re like, wow, I really wove together a lot of these things that I wanted to without consciously saying, I am going to write it this way and do this.

And then in revision, allowing that deliberate work of weeding out the things that don’t belong and enhancing the things that are already there, because your brain is such a magical, wonderful thing that can put these things together like that. It just, it really. It enrichens the story and allows you to do things that feel organic to the reader, even though you were, like, you can be deliberate and it doesn’t mean the reader is going to feel like you were being deliberate if you do it well.

[00:31:07] Sharon Skinner: Well, and then being able to step back and to take that step back so that you can find those things and see those things. Where you can tell what belongs and what doesn’t. And I think working with a coach or an editor makes that process so much easier because the coach and the editor who know what your intent are, they’re looking for your intention on the page, can say here’s where you’re on the mark and this is glorious and you’re doing this beautiful job, do more of this and here’s where you’re getting off the mark, consider revising this or pulling this out or, You know, doing something to shift it so that it becomes more aligned with what your theme or your story is about and stays within the realm of the intention, right?

And I think sometimes it’s easier to have, a lot of times, it’s easier to have somebody else look at it and go, Hey, here’s where it’s really working. And here’s a place that just feels like, ah, you know, you could do something different.

[00:32:08] Christy Yaros: And just the joy of discovering the connections that maybe your writer didn’t see that I think a lot of times, like you said, even if it’s not a coach or an editor, if it’s a good critique partner who, as you pointed out, and I think this is one of the most important aspects of it, knows what you’re trying to do and respects what you’re trying to do and helps you to get your manuscript to that place where you can see the things that are working towards it and the things that are detracting from it that you can take away. And I just have witnessed some incredible connections that have come out in manuscripts that just work so beautifully. And I think after a certain point when you’ve been doing this long enough, intentionally, a lot of the stuff becomes ingrained in you and just becomes part of what you do without you having to think about it as consciously.

[00:33:04] Sharon Skinner: Yeah. So you level up as you go. As you learn these things, they become more and more inherent in what you’re doing, and then you get to level up to the next level, and level up again, and things get, I don’t want to say it gets easier, necessarily, because usually what we’re trying to do is more complicated or a little bit different than we did the last time.

We’re always learning and growing. And as writers, we’re always trying to level up our game and when we level up, we’re ready for the next thing. Sometimes there’s a book in the drawer that you couldn’t write at the time that you can go back and revisit because now you’ve learned enough of your craft to figure out how to make it work when it wasn’t working for you before.

So that’s all part of the process.

[00:33:53] Christy Yaros: Absolutely. So, what do you want listeners to take away from our talk today? What is your action item?

[00:34:04] Sharon Skinner: If I say this, you’re going to say I stole it from you.

[00:34:08] Christy Yaros: Go for it.

[00:34:10] Sharon Skinner: So, I think that based on what we were talking about early on, taking your work and thinking What are the things you want the reader to feel?

What does the character learn? And what is the story about? Those three points that we took out of Cheryl Klein’s book, the experiential point, the emotional point, and the thematic point, I would write those out. I would sit down and try to write those out. And if you’re not there yet with it, then Go a level up and start talking about or at least listing the kinds of themes that you want to deal with.

Are you dealing with emotional behaviors, relationships? What is it you want the story to be dealing with? And at least start there so that you can then drill down and get to a thematic point that is your main thematic point. And again, don’t Don’t feel like we’re saying you have to restrict yourself to a single point. Just that we want you to hone in on a specific point that is the key point that you’re trying to make or the key theme, the thematic point that you’re writing about.

[00:35:27] Christy Yaros: That’s great. And I’m going to jump off that then and what I’m going to say is once you have that or if you have that already, make a list of the different views on that. What does it look like if someone agrees with that? What does it look like if someone disagrees with that? What are the other answers to that question? So if, for example, it’s maybe your theme is being yourself. What does it look like to be yourself and be successful? What does it look like to be yourself and not be accepted?

What does it look like to hide your true self? And list out some of those things and then try and think of what characters you have that can illustrate. Those different ways that you can add those layers and what subplot can you add? How can you tie those things together? And that could be something you explore as you’re planning, and it could be something that you go back and look at in revision.

If you’re drafting, just draft. Just do it. Just get it out, right? Get to the end. Yeah. And then worry about that stuff.

[00:36:29] Sharon Skinner: Get it written. Yeah. So yeah, I think that’s great. Of course I do, because I I have a whole course that I teach on developing complex characters and that is a component of it, is developing the viewpoints of your characters in a way that allows you to compare and contrast the ideas of the story. So that’s a great one. I love it.

[00:36:58] Christy Yaros: Great. I think we covered a lot today and I’m sure that there’s so much more we could, but we have given our marching orders to our listeners and I think we’re good for today. So thank you so much everybody for listening and we will see you soon.

[00:37:17] Sharon Skinner: Bye for now.

[00:37:19] Christy Yaros: We hope you enjoyed this episode of Coaching KidLit, a writing and book coaching podcast for writers who want to level up their KidLit writing game.

[00:37:26] Sharon Skinner: For more about us and to discover what a book coach can do for you, check out coachingkidlit. com and follow us on social media.



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For more information about Sharon Skinner, visit or follow her on Instagram @sharon_skinner_author_bookcoach and Twitter @SharonSkinner56.

For more information about Christy Yaros, visit or follow her on Instagram and Twitter @ChristyYaros.


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