Today on the show we have returning champion author K.M. Weiland. I wanted to bring her back on the show to discuss her new book Writing Your Story’s Theme: The Writer’s Guide to Plotting Stories That Matter.
“Theme Is What Your Story Is Really About.”
Theme—the mysterious cousin of plot and character. Too often viewed as abstract rather than actionable, theme is frequently misunderstood and left to chance. Some writers even insist theme should not be purposefully implemented. This is unfortunate because in many ways theme is story. Theme is the heart, the meaning, the point. Nothing that important should be overlooked.
Powerful themes are never incidental. They emerge from the conjunction of strong plots and resonant character arcs. This means you can learn to plan and implement theme. In doing so, you will deepen your ability to write not only stories that entertain, but also stories that stay with readers long after the end.
Writing Your Story’s Theme will teach you:
- How to create theme from plot and character.
- Why every supporting character and subplot should enhance the theme.
- How to prevent theme from seeming preachy or “on the nose.”
- What to consider in identifying the best theme for any given story.
- And much more!
Conscious mastery of theme will elevate every story you write and allow you to craft fiction of depth and meaning.
Enjoy my conversation with K.M. Weiland.
Right-click here to download the MP3
- K.M. Weiland – Official Site
- Writing Your Story’s Theme: The Writer’s Guide to Plotting Stories That Matter
- BPS 012: How to Create a Bulletproof Character Arc with K.M. Weiland
- Creating Character Arcs: The Masterful Author’s Guide to Uniting Story Structure
- Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success
- Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story
- Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
- Audible – Get a Free Screenwriting Audiobook
Alex Ferrari 0:20
I'd like to welcome back to the show, returning champion, Katie Weiland. How you doing, Katie?
K.M. Weiland 3:16
Good. Thanks for having me.
Alex Ferrari 3:17
Of course, thank you for coming back on the show your first, your first appearance on the show about character arcs was extremely popular, a lot of people really, really liked it. A lot of people in the tribe really, really liked it. So when I saw that you had a new book out, covering theme, of course, I had to invite you back to Yeah, to chat about
K.M. Weiland 3:39
Character arcs and theme are two of my favorite subjects. So
Alex Ferrari 3:44
And you're new, and your new book is called writing your stories theme. Yes. And it just came out a few weeks ago as of this recording. So yeah, and it's already number one on like, multiple lists on Amazon already and everything. So yeah, it's exciting. It's always exciting to being on. Yeah, I remember when I get when you get that little, that little orange thing next, like number one bestseller on you. It's like the see like, so nice. Nice when you do that. So Alright, so can you define what a theme is? The theme of a story is for the audience.
K.M. Weiland 4:20
Yeah. So I think that's kind of like why I wrote the book. Because I think that there's a lot of ways that we can think about theme. And there are a lot of ways that people approach it, you'll have one person talking about it in this aspect when somebody's talking to each other in there. There's a lot of confusion, I think because of that, particularly about applying theme because some of those descriptions are not practical. Some of them are just very abstract. So you can have theme as just like a unifying idea of the story, something like that if you can have dramatic metaphors in which the story represents something. It's it's an example of something that is it's demonstrating from within, but for me the way that I approach theme in the way that I have found it most interesting and most practicable, is to think of it, to realize that really what it is, is the meeting of plot and character. And that, particularly when I was working on the character arcs book, it became really clear to me that when you're developing character arc, what you're doing is proving your theme. And this is true, ultimately, whether people are trying to impose a theme onto the story apart from the character arc or not, what your character undergoes, and how he changes with over the course of the story. That ultimately is what your story is about. And whatever, we'll call it a lesson, although I don't really like that, because it's very moral of the story. But whatever lesson that characters learning, whether it's existential or moral, or I mean, it can be very deep or very shallow. But that ultimately is what your story is putting out into the world and what it's positing about our reality, and that, ultimately, is the theme of the story. So if you can identify that, that through line, where your blood and your character come together, and also like harmonizes, this this debate we have between plot versus character, and which is better. Because together, they come together, and they create the theme of the story, and this beautiful thru line. And then of course, there's so much complexity that arises out of that, and how we're then able to, you know, bring in symbolism and bring in all kinds of layers of metaphor, to to really garnish kind of the theme as we go along
Alex Ferrari 6:32
To support the theme, if you will, yeah. Well, that they'll does every story have a theme?
K.M. Weiland 6:38
I believe, yes.
Alex Ferrari 6:39
I've been the bad even the bad stories?
K.M. Weiland 6:43
Well, that's a good question. I think that I've always taken issue with this idea that people will talk about just a story. I think that's total baloney. Because ultimately, one way or another story is always saying something about our world. Sometimes it's saying it really well, sometimes it's not saying it very well at all, I think a big problem with a lot of stories that don't work, is they don't really know what they're saying. And so they're just kind of throwing out multiple messages. They're still saying something, but it's not a unified, cohesive and resonant kind of a hole. But yeah, I think every time you put a visual on the screen, every time your character says something, every sentence on the page, that's saying something. And within the patterns that arise in a larger work, you're always going to have a theme, whether it's well executed or not.
Alex Ferrari 7:35
So can we can I can I do like a couple of rapid fire movie titles and see if you can decipher a theme for me, just like her all the time. If you see no, I'm gonna try to choose some very popular ones. So any of the Indiana Jones is like, what is the theme of Indiana Jones? Because he's one of the more famous characters in cinema history.
K.M. Weiland 7:54
Yeah, so Indiana Jones is interesting, because he is a character that is typically seen not to have a character arc is very, very bond the same? Exactly. It's very episodic. And that's the way it was designed to be as like the old serial shows, Sherlock.
Alex Ferrari 8:10
K.M. Weiland 8:12
long time since I've seen those movies. I would say the first one, we definitely can see themes of responsibility. In the end, and the climax, we see how bad guys the Nazis are disregarding the Ark of the Covenant and are not respecting the history and the archaeology. And Andy does and Indy survives, and they die. So right there, I think even just in that we have a statement. You know, from the storytellers about what they think, you know, is is a truth. And inherent in that is a theme.
Alex Ferrari 8:47
So theme is basically like, I think you just said that clear word, this is a statement. So the storyteller is creating a statement for the world to understand through the story that they're writing, essentially. And that's what as a writer, you should start thinking about the theme or the statement that you're trying to make through character, which then termed goes into, through character plot, and then essentially theme and then I think, isn't theme essentially character and plot kind of?
K.M. Weiland 9:16
Exactly. Together? Yeah, I think a lot of there's this like misconception, I consider it a misconception that a lot of it was definitely something that I was taught a lot, or read a lot when I was starting out, it was basically like, don't think about your theme. Don't write a theme. Because if you do, one of two things will happen. Either you'll end up with this horrible moral of a story, or you'll end up you know, just trying to hammer this theme into a story and it doesn't fit and it's inorganic. And I think there's a lot of truth to that. But I think once you understand that theme just emerges organically when your plot and your character are working together. So I think yeah, it's really important and amazing when an author has a passionate statement that they want to make. But at the same time, I would be a little cautious of that, because you don't want it to end up, you know, being so moralistic that that's all the story is about. And it's the art of story is, is making the plot and the character arc and external metaphor or the theme. So you could use there many, many stories that never actually say what they're about. They never state what the theme is. But if they're really well done, then just simply through the scenes, the visual scenes through the characters and their interactions, and ultimately through how the characters have changed and what is decided, in the climactic moment of the conflict. The readers and the viewers get it, you know, we see very clearly what is damaged. I mean, Indiana Jones is a great example. Because we see it's very visual, we see exactly what is being said in this story. So like it or not,
Alex Ferrari 10:54
right, exactly. So just so everybody understands listening, so if you as if the author if we lived in an alternate universe, where I think there is a show called The the man, the man on the top castle or something like that, where the Nazis won, where the Nazis won, and Indiana Jones then would have been never called Indiana Jones, they would have called the Nazis are just trying to find some archaeological experiments. If that whole concept was switched, where then the bad guys win, the good guys lose. And that's just the way it's supposed to be. That's a statement by the storyteller stating that that's the way the world should be. That's the that's what they're trying to put out there into the world. That's the theme of the story. So and then it's up to you to believe it or not. So it's almost becomes a propaganda but propaganda. Now we're getting into another conversation where propaganda is all about point of view. And the point of view of the Nazis is that propaganda, it's a story, but from our point of view is like, that's just essentially perfect.
K.M. Weiland 11:53
Yeah. And I think that's a really good example, actually about point of view in that you we could, we could, and we have many stories that do not end well, that seem to be positing something that most of us would completely disagree with. But because of the way it's done, you know, it's done with irony. We understand like this, this is not like, this isn't literally what the filmmaker or the the writer is saying. But they're using irony to kind of say the exact opposite. Whereas in other stories, it's completely on the nose. And like, yeah, Nazis are great. That's, that's, and that is, you know, where we get into the whole thing of propaganda.
Alex Ferrari 12:29
Right? Well, I mean, so I mean, just using the movie, like Thelma and Louise, I mean, it does not end happily. I mean, they do not, they do not ride off into the sunset, they kind of do, but not in the way that we normally and I think that was also a beautifully twist that they did, they did lit they literally did right off into the sunset. But unfortunately, spoiler alert off a cliff. So but the themes in that movie are so powerful, and and and that story are so powerful. And so it, and it's I mean, it is pretty on the nose. I don't know, how would you like I mean, I'm assuming you've seen Thelma and Louise. Oh, yeah. Yeah, it's, it's on the nose. But it's, it's not though. I don't know. What do you think?
K.M. Weiland 13:13
Well, I was gonna say that, I think that it's much easier to do themes that are not on the nose, when they don't end, happy, happy. It's not to say Happy Endings don't work or aren't resonant. But when everything works out, you know, when the hero is the shining Knight of truth, and he's completely rewarded for this. It doesn't resonate, it doesn't ring true. And so I think in a movie, like Thelma and Louise, which ends tragically, there's this resonance, because there's also there's also a triumph. There's also a heroism in the way it ends, because they, they end in alignment with the story is truth, even though it also is, you know, the end of their lives and therefore a tragic end story. So but I think that's a that's a really important point. Actually, it's not that you can't end happy endings, well love happy endings. But it's important that that happy ending when you if that's what you're doing is earned, that the the character, whether they, you know, have represented the thematic truth throughout the story, or they've come to it in the end, that it hasn't been easy, because I think we all resonate with that, because in our own lives, it's not easy. And we kind of resent it when the hero is just like, everything's just super easy for him. And then he can shake his finger at us in the end and say, See, that was the truth. Everybody should do this. And we resent the authors as well. We resent when that happens. And then I'll use one of the movies I bring. I bring this movie up a lot because it's such a powerful story. Very popular story. Not powerful, but very popular story in the Zeitgeist of the world right now are the Avengers in the whole Marvel Universe, where I'm assuming Did you see the last Avengers the Big Bang game one,
Alex Ferrari 14:58
okay. So and again, If you don't no one's seen it, please stop the recording because I'm going to give you a couple of spoiler alerts here. But the end of that movie, it could so easily just been a normal. The good guys beat up the bad guys, there's no there's no risk. There's no no one no loss, no nothing. But yet, in that they they created not only a little loss, massive loss where Tony Stark essentially sacrifices himself because the the obstacle was so large that someone had to die. And that made that resonate so much more than everyone sitting around eating trauma at the end of the movie, which work which worked fine for the first Avengers, but not so much for the last one, because they had built it up over time someone had to die in order for this to work. And so would you agree?
K.M. Weiland 15:47
Yeah, totally. Um, I was really psyched that basically they brought the story to an end, you know, even though supposedly, supposedly, it's going to continue in other movies, they brought that story to an end. And that's something that I find is very problematic. And serial fiction, whether it's, you know, TV series that just go on and on and on, or things, you know, potentially like the Marvel Universe, there's no end. And if there's no, no, there's no, there's no meaning, ultimately, because you're not saying this is what the story is about. And also, it's really hard, like you say, to ramp those stakes and say, this matters, if there isn't an end, and there aren't consequences. So yeah, I that was something. I mean, that series is a whole big Marvel fan. But I mean, it was, like you said it had its problems. It wasn't a seamless presentation by any means. But I was very happy and very impressed with what they did by bringing it full circle in that final story in a lot of ways, first and foremost, for bringing it to an end. But also, I just thought it was just fantastic how they brought it for full circle, how to begin the very first movie, we go all the way back to Iron Man ends with him saying I am Iron Man. And then we get to come all the way to the end. And it means something completely different. In the beginning, it's totally egoic. In the end, it's totally self sacrificial. So I thought that was very powerful, a very powerful example of why we need to bring stories to an end.
Alex Ferrari 17:12
And also, I mean, and we want to talk about the magic. I mean, well, comic books, specifically the Marvel comic book characters. They are I mean, the themes are so they, I mean, Stan, you know, God, rest in peace has created some of the most memorable characters in human history, essentially, and but their themes are extremely powerful. And I think that's one of the things that resonates so powerfully with, with, with people around the world, every one of those, and it's not stories that have themes, but I feel that the characters have theme more, because there's a theme attached to Spider Man, and to Hulk and to Fantastic Four and two x men, x men is racism and stat being a loner and standing out, Spider Man is being a young kid just trying to figure things Hulk is obviously anger, fantastic for his family issues. But they're but their themes associated the character, can you attach themes to characters? I mean, obviously, you can. But what's your take on that?
K.M. Weiland 18:09
Yeah, and I think that's actually that's a great way to bring it back to plot and character. Because and honestly, the whole Marvel if we look at the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe, you know, through that story arc, there's a bazillion different plots going on, everybody's got their own plots, you know, every movies got its own plot. And really, at the end of the day, it's not the plots we remember, you know, we don't we don't think about Oh, that was such a great plot. And in, you know, that particular movie, because most of them weren't, a lot of the plots were very problematic. And a lot of
Alex Ferrari 18:39
like, I could remember that when you said that I'm like, which of the plots I remember, like winter soldier was really good Winter Soldier is probably one of the best. And there's like a handful of like, plots that I remember, but I don't remember the plots as much.
K.M. Weiland 18:50
Yeah, you remember the characters. And I think that it's exactly because theme is so rooted in character. And the story, the series works as a whole overarching, because that does have a plot that has a unifying plot in which everything kind of works together with fantasy as the antagonist. Which is another good point about how antagonists pull together the plot, which is why a lot of the individual movies had their problems with plot. But yeah, it's the characters theme is inherent in the character arc. It's inherent in the the internal conflict between the Matic lies and truths that happen on a character level. And you can stick you know, themes onto the surface of a plot and say this plot is about why war is evil, or whatever. But if it's not happening inside of the character, if you're not just feeling that struggle, then you're really going to struggle to execute a meaningful theme that is going to resonate with with viewers or readers.
Alex Ferrari 19:51
Now, what is the thin yet thematic principle?
K.M. Weiland 19:56
Okay, thematic principle is basically a term for any iteration of theme that you find in your story. So it's the unifying idea, though, when you are trying to figure out what is my theme. And you're, you know, looking at like, well, it's kind of about this. And it's kind of about that the thematic principle is going to be your through line. So that is something that once you identify it with us, once you identify what is at the heart of specifically the protagonists, character development, that is going to become that the magic principle for the story, and is something that you can then kind of use up as a plumb line to measure all the other little elements and decide is this working? Is this supporting the theme is approving the theme? Or is it just kind of extraneous and really telling a different story altogether?
Alex Ferrari 20:42
Now, how do you prevent theme from becoming a little bit on the nose or preachy? Because that I mean, we've all seen movies, or read books that are a little bit on the nose a little bit, like, stop preaching to me so much, and just tell me a story?
K.M. Weiland 21:00
I think that's a good question. Because I mean, so many of us, you know, if we're, if we're interested in theme at all, it's probably because we really are passionate about certain topics, and we want to be able to comment on them or share our views in some degree. And honestly, that's a, that's a tricky thing to do, and the medium of fiction, because when you are on the nose, when you say this is the way it is, this is what I think and you should think and do. It doesn't never go as well. Um, but I think one of my favorite ways to look at this and it isn't explicit. But one of my favorite kind of rules of thumb, is to think of it as if stories are not there to answer to provide answers. They're there to ask questions. And I think this is most powerful when the author himself is asking the question, because I mean, we all have our ideas about how we think things should be or how things will turn out if this and this happens. But I think when when the author him or herself really inhabits that question, whether they think they know the answer or not, and explores it from within the drama of the story, you know, throws the characters into the plot, and lets events start happening. You to really explore that you have to get down on the ground and get down and dirty and really question your own beliefs about things. Otherwise, the characters do not ring true. And I've always said that if you don't like you're not almost convinced, by your antagonists point of view, then you're not writing him, right. And your theme is probably going to come across very one sided. I think the most powerful themes are the ones where the protagonist, and to some degree, the author, and to some degree, the readers have a serious question about what about the worldview that's being presented? Is this working? You know, is this really how it's going to be because of the sacrifices that are involved in the the moral gray areas and all of that? I think Sam Raimi is speaking of Marvel I think Sam Raimi is versions of the his original two Spider Man movies first to get a really, really great job of this really explored the consequences of heroism and responsibility and, and I mean, we really see that even in the second one were Peters like completely questioning do I do I even want to be Spider Man, this stinks, I don't want to do. And that really flies in the face of kind of the surface. obvious way to go about, you know, being a heroes great. This is awesome. If everybody wants to, you know, have a need. That was a very powerful exploration of that subject.
Alex Ferrari 23:39
Yeah, I mean, because you're right, because everybody's like, everybody wants to have powers, but everyone, that's what what made Stan so amazing, is that he gave superheroes problems. like Superman never had any, you know, like issues with his relationships. You know, at the beginning, you know, Batman was pretty wonderment like he's like, you know, and Wonder Woman did dead and Aquaman did that. But when you got into the Marvel, I mean, you got spider man who had pimples I was dealing with, you know, being a nerd at school, like, oh, like everybody else has dealt with at one point in their life or another and gave it in giving those problems. That's, I think, what made those characters so they resonate so much, even to this day, and that's why I guess the popularity of the MCU so much, is because even the creator even like me, man, like you Guardians of the Galaxy. When Adam and Guardians of the Galaxy came out I was like, Wow, man, they are just scraping like the butt like and nobody wants to see a man movie. And yet Ant Man was like an amazing heist film. It was just like a fun heist film almost. It was just it's it's it's remarkable. But you also said something earlier regards to antagonists bringing together the theme. Can you kind of delve into that a little bit more like using let's say Thanos as an example because Santos was such a an overarching He was only this the true villain in two, two movies, right? It was the last two Avengers. He was that he was the actual villain, where he always was kind of like, you know, he was the puppet master for the first eight years or something like that. And then he just showed him He's like, Well, apparently no one else is gonna get it done. So I'll show up and take care of it. But how how does a character like Daniels kind of bring together the theme of that whole overarching, first 10 years of the MCU?
K.M. Weiland 25:27
Well, I think, to me, the the best entry point to that question is really to look at how the antagonist kind of defines the plot. And obviously, as we've been talking about plot theme character, they're all they're all three sides of the same thing, basically. So you can hardly talk about one without talking about the other. But the antagonist is, as the obstacle that is opposing the protagonist in the story, he's what creates the conflict. So no antagonists no conflict, no story, the protagonist, just, you know, goes straight to finish and gets $200 or whatever. And so the, but the antagonist is, as we all get that, so yeah, there's a horrible bad guy out there in the distance that we know is gonna show up and be the big boss in the climax. But if that antagonist isn't consistently what is opposing the protagonist throughout the structure of the story, then ultimately the story, it just, I mean, at its best, it's still kind of works. But it loses that deep cohesion and resonance because the protagonist is off doing other stuff. He's, you know, dealing with other antagonists. And I think we see that again and again, in the Marvel movies, it's like the the antagonist is is kind of the subplot. He's off doing whatever shows up for the big battle. And most of the time, it's more interesting personal problems that are actually the plot of the story as we like Iron Man to immediately comes to mind.
Alex Ferrari 26:53
You are like, I mean, like Black Panther had a great antagonist, he has a, there's a handful of really good villains. Very few, though, I want to say probably like, five, out of all the movies that were like, holy cow, these are really good. I mean, I think warmongers actually going to get his own spin off movie. Really, I heard, I heard, I heard through the geek, the Geek vine, that, that he's actually gonna get his own spin off. Because he was, he was just the opposite side of the coin of Black Panther. And he arguably was, was right. And in regards to what his his point, his world point of view was even Black Panther agreed with him. He just didn't agree with how he was doing it. But he agreed with it. That's what made it so amazing, because the hero is not supposed to agree with the point of view of the villain. But yet you're like, Look, you're right. You know, things were bad, but you just can't go around killing people. Yeah, I
K.M. Weiland 27:49
think that Black Panther is actually a good example of kind of both sides of the coin. And that structurally, it struggled with the antagonist a little bit it had some issues with the antagonist, being there throughout the story. And being you know, he kind of doesn't show up until I want to say like, halfway through almost really, like he said that the build dead, the setups.
Alex Ferrari 28:07
Yeah, that that kind of set everything up, right,
K.M. Weiland 28:09
anyway. But he's also a great example of what I was saying about how we need to be almost convinced by the antagonists point of view. And when that happens, you get that really is like the generator of all of this potential for amazing change within the protagonist. And when the protagonist starts changing, or any character but particularly the protagonist, that's where a theme is generated, because it can't help but just spontaneously emerge from what's happening from the events in the story.
Alex Ferrari 28:37
Well, yeah, like, I mean, Thanos his point of view is like, Look, everything's overpopulated. We need it, we need to thin the herd. I mean, again, rough conversation to have, do we agree with the concept of like, Yeah, all the resources are being taken away. And there are too many, you know, creatures in the war in the universe and things like that. But you can't just kill everybody with the snap of a finger. So the point of view is, it's like not, it's not, that's what I think always find a good villain to be in a good theme for a villain is the the twisting of the mustache character sucks. Oh, there's just horrible. They just like, oh, he's just being bad. Because there's no point I've just been, we've been watching a lot since we've been locked up a lot of old movies, again, a lot of old shows again. And and when you see a villain, you're like, oh, that villain has no point of view, and it's dead. The whole movie dies. The whole the whole story falls apart when the when the there's no real strong point of view. But when the villain does have that strong and you write theme just kind of just just flourishes right out of that, because it has to there is no other way. It has to be there. Yeah, it's like the protagonist, you know, comes in and says, you know,
K.M. Weiland 29:45
this is the right way to do it. And then as soon as the antagonist comes up with a convincing argument, why that's not so it's just the the protagonist is kind of like, Oh, well, Plan B, I guess. There is no plan B and so then all sudden, there's like, genuine You know, character development, story development, unexpected, you know, original events that come out of that because it is so genuine in that the author or the storytellers are really, you know, having that discussion with themselves. Like, Oh, well, maybe maybe my hair was not as bright as I thought he was. What does that mean? and all kinds of interesting things come out of that.
Alex Ferrari 30:23
Absolutely. Absolutely. Now, thematically a film series and a character like James Bond, James Bond, original James Bond pre Daniel Craig, what is the theme of those movies? You know, woman eyes, drink a lot of alcohol, then just kill people and distract and indispensability.
K.M. Weiland 30:42
Like, like any of the ones before Daniel Craig, but of course, I'm familiar with the gist of him. I don't Yeah, see that? That, to me is an example of every story has a theme, but just because it's saying something doesn't necessarily mean that it's having a positive influence on the world. Right,
Alex Ferrari 31:05
James? Because James Bond, honestly, before Daniel, once because, you know, of course, I always consider Casino Royale, probably the best James Bond movie, in my personal opinion. Yeah,
K.M. Weiland 31:13
I really like that.
Alex Ferrari 31:14
I mean, it's just, it's a masterpiece in that genre. But But he he was a character, he had a character arc. James Bond never had a character arc before. Like, you know, Sean Connery, his car, you know, and Pierce Brosnan, they were the same dude, from the beginning to the end, they never really changed. They just kind of went along, not even the people around them changed. I mean, maybe some of the, the female toys that he used along the way, like the bond girls, which is so out of date, and but that for the time that it came out, it was it was it but you go back and thinking like this is not a message that kind of resonate. Now, if you just forget all about the message, just enjoy the ride, then I get it, it's a ride, and you're going along. So he's the good guy is going to stop the bad guy, but it's not really deep.
K.M. Weiland 32:03
Yeah, and I think that's fine to a point. But that's why I say there's no such thing as just a story is anything that you're bringing into your environment that is becoming a part of your own, you know, view of the world and your own reality that's changing you in some way or another, you know, whether you're it could, it could be conscious, it could be not. So I think that's a great example. I haven't seen those movies. So I'm not I can't directly comment on them. I've only seen the Daniel Craig ones. And but I think it's a great example of how mindless entertainment is never actually harmless entertainment. There's always something that is affecting your view of the world.
Alex Ferrari 32:43
You know, you're absolutely right, because like, like mindless video games and things like that people are like, because video games are stories, and we're telling a story with the video games, you're just performing the story yourself. But a lot of times those those stories and those kind of mindless movies or mindless shows, they there's something coming through it sometimes it's not good. And it does, it does have an effect on people, whether that be ultraviolence whether that be massage and whether it be you know, the Nazis you know, any of those kinds of things. It's as storytellers we have a very big responsibility. With especially if you're given the platform of and millions and millions of dollars to make a movie or show. We have a big responsibility. And the creators have a big responsibility to what I love what you've been saying this a couple times that deposit. What are you depositing into, you know, the statement you're making, you're depositing this into the world's narrative. Now, that's a very powerful statement. And I love that you said I might actually steal that. Because it's, it's true every time you you tell a story, you're depositing it into the library of the human experience that might live for a long time, I might just fall off to the into the wasteland. But it is extremely important that you know that you have that you have this responsibility. Would you agree?
K.M. Weiland 34:10
Yeah, totally. That's something I'm, I'm very happy you said that, actually. Because that's something I'm really passionate about. Just in that, I think there's so much entertainment is so available to us now. And it's so easy for people to create it. You know, we're and I think that's great. I mean, I think storytelling is a deeply important thing for anybody to do that. It's it's very powerful. Just on a personal level, never mind if you're actually able to, you know, share that with other people. But I think we are able to share what we're creating more and more easily with people around us. There's just so many platforms, and it's so easy, you know, in easy to you know, get out there and have an audience and most of us do it because it's fun. It's entertaining. It's fun, you know, and we just want to, we think we just want to entertain other people. And that's fine to a point. But I do think we have to truly recognize the responsibility of what we're doing. Stories are, it's one thing to say, this is my view of the world, I want you to believe it. It's another thing to write a story about it, particularly a relatively well crafted story, which ultimately is a subliminal message. You know, most people are not conscious of what they are of the truth that they're receiving, through stories. If the themes are really well done, nobody's saying them, but they're there and just the same, they're being proven, you know, through the reality of the story through the visuals, and the events. And I, I believe very strongly that it's deeply important for artists of all stripes, but particularly storytellers, in this context, to recognize that, you know, the power is yours to do what you will with, but be conscious of it. Because there is no such thing as just a story. Even if you're the only person who reads it, it's still affecting you. It's changing you. And insofar as it changes you, it's going to have a ripple effect that changes the world around you.
Alex Ferrari 36:07
It is arguably one of the most powerful things that the human, the humans have created a story because it is a story can change a person's perspective point of view, it could go bad, or it can go. Good. And that's also relatively speaking, like I always tell people, you know, Hitler didn't wake up every morning thinking he was the bad guy. He woke up every morning like I'm doing God's work, like, you know, that's that was, that was him as a villain, you have to think that Darth Vader is not sitting around going. So add? No, he had, it's always about a point of view. And but it is, we as filmmakers have to think that and i and i know you've probably seen this as well, when you read stories, by first time writers or young writers, that that's not there, they're not thinking that far ahead. In regards to the story of how this story could actually affect people, they're just trying to get a story written that that's hard enough, let alone like, Oh, god, you're gonna throw this responsibility on me now that I have to, I have to like, Oh, my God, what? Like, I have a loaded shotgun, and I'm walking around with it like, no, look, look, yes. But don't worry, you're not going to kill anybody with a story, hopefully, hopefully, hopefully. But but it is a responsibility, but you don't see that. And only when you start seeing like the Masters work, then you start seeing the just weave theme in so effortlessly, characters almost so effortlessly, that you just go Okay, so when you start reading Shakespeare, you know, that dude, or you start reading, you know, even current day masters like Stephen King, or JK Rowling and the Harry Potter series, like you start looking at the stuff that they did and how they wrote it, it's just, but the themes just pop so heavily in all of those things.
K.M. Weiland 38:04
Yeah. And I think you use the word master. And I think that's the key there is that they've mastered the plot, they've mastered the character. And because of that, like I say, the theme emerges. And it's there. And it's so powerful, because the stories they're writing are so cohesive, they're so resonant. All the pieces are there for a reason. And they had, I think, both Stephen King and probably rolling they have, they have things they want to say. And they say them, you know, well, they say them, you know, through the honesty of their own stories, and that has clearly resonated with billions of people. But yeah, I think I think it is perhaps, good for writers who are starting out to realize that Yeah, you're you it's not the weight of the world, on your shoulders, it's more about just a consciousness just, I mean, don't approach it, approach it with fear and trembling, but don't approach it with this, you know, sobriety approach it with that same childlike wonder that you had when you were a kid, and you were making up, you know, probably the stories of greater truth than you will ever write as an adult. And it was just fun, you know, you were just tapped into it. And it was fun and exciting. And then I think we kind of we start overthinking it as adults, we were like, so serious with the responsibility of our adult ness, and how we've got to make sure that everybody else is just as responsible and, you know, then we start writing stuff that's on the nose, we lose the muse, we lose that childlike innocence. Really, it's not just the Wonder but the innocence, that allows us to ask questions, you know, to just step into that story world and look around and see, you know, what, what do I think? I don't know, let's let's find out. Let's you know, throw some characters out there and see what happens. And maybe by the end, you know, I will have been impacted by this more than anybody who reads it. But it's exciting. It doesn't. It needs to be something that we take seriously. But I definitely think that ultimately, it's still about having fun. It's still about entering that. Kind of that dream zone and just playing?
Alex Ferrari 40:03
Absolutely. Now, we talked a lot about character affecting theme. How can you use plot? specifically? How can we use plot to help create our theme?
K.M. Weiland 40:16
Yeah, so like I say, plot character theme, they're what I call the big three. And really, if, if all, if your story is working well, then they are seamlessly, organically, even effortlessly going to be working together. So if your plot is working really well, then it's almost certain that your characters and your theme are also there. And if something's wrong with your plot, it's probably because something's off with one of the other two. But specifically, if you look at character arc, and how that works over the entirety of the story, you can see how deeply tied in it is with plot structure. And, you know, more or less all plot structure systems are pointing to the same thing, just with, you know, different perspectives. I specifically use the three act structure, and you can just pretty much just overlay, you know, a basic character structure onto the plot structure and they interact. You can't have one without the other. It's not like the characters off doing his little subplot development. Well, you know, the James Bond action is happening over here.
Alex Ferrari 41:16
Yeah. Because then they wouldn't be on live. But that's also then you wouldn't be the main character, you'd be a sub character.
K.M. Weiland 41:22
Yeah. So it's, it's happening together, the internal conflict is what is prompting the character to act in the external conflict. And then the external conflict is, you know, coming back and asking him to question within himself, what he's doing and why he's doing it. And so it's, it's from within that the character has certain mindsets and ideas that he wants to accomplish. And the plot is then through the conflict, you know, and the consequences and the stakes is going to prove one way or the other, whether the characters you know, initial ideas are true. And from that is where the emerges. So
Alex Ferrari 42:00
what can you talk? Can you talk a little bit about the difference between theme and a message? Because that is that there's a, there's a subtleness to that.
K.M. Weiland 42:09
Yeah. So I think it was Michael Hauger, who wrote writing screenplays that sell I believe,
Alex Ferrari 42:15
Michael Haig, Michael Haig,
K.M. Weiland 42:19
Yes, so, um, I believe he was the one that that that differentiated that or that was the first person I'd seen who differentiated theme from message. And I thought that was such a keen observation. And the way he defines them basically, is that theme is a universal principle. It's some will just say love conquers all, something that everybody resonates to, regardless who they are, where they live. Their their circumstances, message, however, is very specific to the situation within the story. So the message is something that is, is only going to apply to people who are like the protagonist, people who are in this same situation. You know, like, trying to think of something that has to do with love conquers all. But you know, your specific love story, right? It's like, it only applies to you and your partner. It's not something that's necessarily you know, the lessons that you learned, and that the theme of that isn't something that's necessarily going to apply to all people everywhere, even though we all relate to the idea of love. Right? I think that's really important because it allows you to play out the specifics of a scenario, and yet still have something to say to a much broader audience. beauty in the beast, love conquers all.
Alex Ferrari 43:34
I was racking my love conquers all. Beating the beast. Perfect. Okay, there.
K.M. Weiland 43:39
Yeah. And how many of us, you know, have to go through that where you're, you know, it's the beast, and you have to redeem him? And yeah, well, that's
Alex Ferrari 43:45
pretty specific. That's, uh, well, I mean, arguably, that is it's according to my wife. Not that not that specific.
K.M. Weiland 43:55
That's true. That's the beauty of it, because it is like a premium archetypal story. And yet again, the specifics of it, you know, particularly in the fairy tale medium, very specific, the message you know, is, you know, don't make the fairy mad when she comes to your castle, you know, or she's gonna curse you and you're gonna have to go through all this.
Alex Ferrari 44:14
So let's, since we've talked about since we've touched upon the fairy tale, the fairy tale is, is these stories have been around for hundreds, if not, some of them even 1000s of years, some of these stories, and they so archetype they're so often they're so on the nose, like Beauty and the Beast is fairly on the nose. There's nothing subtle about Buting the beast, or Little Mermaid, or Lion King, or I'm going through Disney movies now, but but they're, they're very on the nose. There those themes are such but those that kind of those kind of stories are extremely important to the human condition. The hope the love conquers all is a very powerful and important theme that As humans, we should understand, or at least have Have some sort of inkling of what that is, these stories. Like I always love that George Lucas said this He's like, myth is essentially the meat and potatoes of our society. And that's how we pass along the core elements like love conquers all good versus bad, you know, beyond this, you know, the, the boy who cried wolf, these kind of like very struck these kind of themes. I'd love to hear your take on that on fairy tales and what the power of what they do I
K.M. Weiland 45:34
archetypal stories I or something else I'm very passionate about. And I think I would argue that they are not on the nose, I think that they are because they are so metaphoric. I mean, they're not literal, you know, nobody to actually turns into a beast, you know, they're not cursed by fairies and turned into a beast. That's a metaphor. And therefore, even though the stories are very straightforward, and even simplistic, in some ways, they're not on the nose, simply because they're not literal. If you had a boy, Cried Wolf, you know, if you had if that was a story where the boy, the mother told the boy Stop lying, and the boy came in, and, you know, it's no longer about what's actually, you know, being dramatized. It's specifically like, in in, in my book, in the theme book, I talked about how, when I was in middle school, I had to read these stories about kids who, you know, did kids stuff that you had to mow the lawn to earn some money they had, they found, they found a lost wallet, and they had to return it. You know, it was like these these little lessons about how to be a good kid, you know, and that's all they were, there was nothing about them that wasn't literally, this is what you're supposed to do as a kid. And I hated them, even as a kid. They're so preachy and on the nose, but stories, I think, like, you know, anything where you find that really archetypal element, fairy tales, or Star Wars or comic books, I think it's because they transcend the literal Spider Man is just a teenage kid who reminds all of us of ourselves at some point in our lives. But he has spider powers, you know, that's nothing that any of us actually relate to. It's just a metaphor, not a hyperbole of our own lives.
Alex Ferrari 47:22
Now, we've talked about theme in regard to like, I think you were talking about? Well, it's a concept of love conquers all, and certain themes, within stories. But genre has such a powerful point in regards to theme. Whereas there's certain things that you just can't do with theme because of the genre they're in and then sometimes, when you can transcend that, because then you've really hit, like, get out is an amazing example of taking the horror genre and completely flipping it on its head. dramatically. Yeah, yeah, I
K.M. Weiland 48:02
think genre actually, genre stories are very archetypal. I think the essence of genre is archetype. We have most obviously, perhaps in the romance, romance genre, but also in many, many different I mean, the very fact that there are tropes. And there are templates, though, that readers expect you to follow, that creates an archetype, but most of them are even more deeply rooted in an archetype than than even just modern conventions about the actual genre. So yeah, there are certain themes that are inherent in certain genres. love conquers all, being an obvious one for for romance, or the you know, good conquers evil being an obvious one for Action, Adventure stories, things like that. And so yeah, I think we can see that these are their archetypes, because they're stories that are perennially asking the same questions, because we say love conquers all, or good triumphs over evil. But then there's that part of us that has a question. You know, like, there is a deep part of us that believes in those things. But for most of us, there's also a question too, does love conquers all? does good, always triumph over evil? And so I think,
Alex Ferrari 49:11
yeah, no, that's just No, the answer is because we live in the real world.
K.M. Weiland 49:15
Exactly. And I think that the really good genre stories are the ones that keep asking those same questions over and over in ways that give us fresh insights into really are not perennial statements, but are perennial questions within the human existence. One thing
Alex Ferrari 49:33
that I find one of the storytellers that I've always studied and loved I'm a big fan of as a director or writer director is James Cameron, because he is obviously he knows how to tap into something because his his track record is nobody else has ever tried to track right? Nobody not even Spielberg not even it's a very specific track record that he's created for himself. But what I've noticed an all of his stories he does so thing that is really interesting he, he actually not only smashes genres together, but also, I'm not sure if he's john. he smashes themes together, but he definitely matches genres together. So if you look at Terminator, his first real work, it's an action adventure, but it's a love conquers all story. You know, you look at the abyss, action, adventure, love conquers all, Titanic, action, adventure, love conquers all. And then some other themes in there as well about classism, and that kind of stuff. Same thing with Avatar, action, adventure, love conquers all. And then then there's also you know, environmental themes and other things like that he threw in there, but he slams all of this stuff together. So avatar is a really good example of that there is a lot of stuff going on in avatar thematically. Yeah, I
K.M. Weiland 50:51
think that that it's, first of all, I think it's he, what you've presented, there is a good example of how you can have a main through line of the where the theme and the plot and the character all come together and provide that cohesion or resonance. And then you can still explore, you know, other things that come up naturally through the story's premise. But specifically like to reference Terminator, and Titanic, because I think that the thing to me about James Cameron, because he is, like you say, does all these crazy things with genre. And yet, underlying it, particularly for those two movies, I feel is this rock solid archetypal story. And I think we don't always notice it, because it's not the hero's journey. And this is something that I'm really excited about right now. And I'm going to start writing about on my site, hopefully next year. But I'm just the realization that we are so fixated on the hero's journey, like that's the only archetypal underpinning for all stories everywhere. And of course, it's not. And I think that actually something that I realized in reading Kim Hudson's, her book was called the virgins promise, I think. But she posits as specifically like, a counter type, character journey that's more feminine based. And in that two, she talks about how really, that's just the first act. The hero, the Virgin and the hero are just the first act of human existence. Most stories do not even tap, you know, the more mature archetypes of the second act, much less the our elder archetypes in the third act. So this is something I've really been researching this year, and I'm really excited about, but to me why James Cameron was so fantastically on point in Terminator, and Titanic specifically was he nailed the virgin journey. He nailed that version, that feminine journey, and not not just within the character, but specifically in Terminator. The whole thing is a metaphor for that feminine journey. You've got the protector and the predator, and then how in the end, they both die, and she's the one who has to deal with it. And it's just fantastic. I love Terminator.
Alex Ferrari 53:00
The first Terminator and the second one is just that the best of the series.
K.M. Weiland 53:05
Anyway, but really I think what it is for me anyway why those stories work is not just because they're well told, well plotted not just because they're entertaining or have something to say. But because they are rock solid on that archetypal level.
Alex Ferrari 53:17
Yeah, and yeah, they they take the virgin story, but then they also take I mean, if you look at Terminator is such a brilliant just a genius piece of literature, like not literature but of cinema, but just writing the storytelling and that is so complex. But on its but it's on its surface. There was a big dude with a gun trying to kill two other people. That's, that's on the surface. But that's what that's the brilliance of Cameron, I think is that on the surface? It's about the Titanic. It's about we all know what we all that's what the thing when I heard about Titanic, like, James man, like we all know, the ending. We all know where this is going. Like how can you be excited about a movie that you know the ending to, but yet, he was able to pull that off in such a way and I'm always fascinated. I always love talking to story. People who really analyze and study story about avatar, because avatar story and theme theme thematically avatars pretty. It's It borders preachy. Sometimes it borders preachy, yet, how was it because it wasn't just the cool visuals because we've seen cool visuals before. There was something else that resonated in the human condition that made it the biggest movie in the world of all time, and and arguably still is one of the biggest movies of all time. What did he do in that story from your point of view that connected thematically? Because I think the themes are extremely love conquers all. You have to protect the obviously the environmental themes of good versus very big, good versus evil themes. Like what what did you think about that?
K.M. Weiland 55:00
long time since I've seen that movie, and I only saw it once. So I'm trying to remember. I think all everything you've said, you know, is really true is what gives it a big feel. I would say though, that, really I'm, as far as I remember, because, again, it's been at least 10 years since I've seen it. Um, it's, it's that character, the main character, and how he's, we get a good character arc from him. And also there's that, this relatability, because of the situation that he's in, he's crippled, he, you know, gets to go off into video game land, and you know, have a whole new body. And I think there's something there's always something powerful about, first of all, completely understanding why a character is the way they are and why they're doing what they're doing. Because he's kind of a jerk in the beginning, if I remember, right, it was, yeah, but we still, you know, you can still get why, why he's doing what he's doing. Why, because of, you know, this deep motivation that I, you know, I want my body back, basically, I want to be able to walk again. And then to be able to take that and archit it's a really tricky thing, when you're doing a positive change arc. And so the character has to start a basically a deficit, you know, he starts in a negative place, and then arcs to the positive. So how do you make the character in the beginning, somebody who's likable, not the character, the readers, you know, aren't just immediately fed up with because he's not he doesn't get it, you know, he's not on the right side of it. And in a, in a complex story that particularly arises out of, you know, complex lies that the character might believe in why he's, you know, confused in the beginning, because we all are, you know, so there's, there's a deep relatability there. But even in characters who aren't as inherently likable, I think when we understand where they're coming from, that's really a really powerful way to begin the character arc, and therefore the because will follow them. If you're, if you're not going to follow the character, you're never going to get the you know, the juicy parts of the theme. Well, I
Alex Ferrari 56:59
mean, I think you touched on something that characters are driven by the story that they've told themselves about the world about, about how the world works. And that's James Bond has a very specific story, he tells himself to get up in the morning, Indiana Jones has won Luke Skywalker at the beginning of Star Wars as one as opposed to at the end of the trilogy, he has another story he tells himself, in a lot of times, humans specifically now in the story, but also in real life, we will fight tooth and nail to defend our point, our story point of view, our life point of view. And it's extremely difficult to change that perspective, because that could be societal, that could be experiment, experience. It's the experiences you've had in life. Like if you're, if you're a girl, and were beaten by your father, all your life early on in your in your, in your childhood, the association that all men are bad, is a very tough conversation to have, because it's a story that you've told yourself. And it's honestly the story that's holding you together. Yes. It's an idea. It's exactly it's the identity that you've put yourself together and to break the identity. People will, will die to defend it is that so as a story, as I know, we're going deep now. We're going a little deeper than theme, but but actually could it actually could touch back to theme. I'd love to hear what you think about that. Yeah, I
K.M. Weiland 58:29
think in essence, that story, and I think that's definitely at the foundational principles of character arc. The way I approach it, it's character arc is basically this conflict, this inner conflict between a lie the character believes, and the thematic truth. And depending on the type of arc, the character might start out, believing in the lie or the truth, and he might represent the truth steadfastly throughout the story. But in a positive change arc, where you have a story of character who starts out with a story with an a, a limiting belief of some kind, that's the essence of the story, the entire story is going to be built to put that character into situations that are going to challenge that belief, show him the limitations. And you know, if he arcs positively is going to bring him out of that into a greater truth. But again, in in, you know, the conversation of not having it beyond the nose, the way we keep that from happening is it's not easy. You know, there's a reason we hang on to these limiting identities and these limiting beliefs and we all do it every single day,
Alex Ferrari 59:32
Every human being on the planet, does it. Yeah, absolutely.
K.M. Weiland 59:36
And it's, you know, we're at we're quite happy to stay that way. And so is the character until something happens that you know, that first plot point happens and completely rocks the characters normal world. And suddenly they have to start questioning not just, you know, how do I defeat the bad guy, but, you know, what am I going to have to change within myself? You know, what views, what stories what identities Am I going to have to paint Fully shed, in order to be able to grow and move forward, or, you know, refuse to do that and stay where you're at, basically.
Alex Ferrari 1:00:08
And that is basically the analogy of life. I mean, it's, that's what that's why we resonate so much with story and and theme in general, because it's just an example of what we're going through, it helps us deal with this existence. Right?
K.M. Weiland 1:00:28
Yeah, I think that, you know, people, people, you know, start learning about story theory and story structure, and in all these ideas about the main character arc, and a lot of times there's this feeling of like, No, you know, I don't want to impose all these rules, onto my my creativity onto my story. And, you know, it can feel that way. When you're, you know, you're first making all of this conscious, but the truth is exactly the opposite. The only reason we have these ideas, these theories about structure and character arc and theme is because we've seen them arising from, you know, 1000s of years of stories, and 1000s of years of our lives, the psychological journey of a potent character arc is only potent in a story because we recognize and resonate with it from our own lives,
Alex Ferrari 1:01:14
Right, the hero's journey, which is, it's something that resonates pretty much in every culture around the world. It's because we've all done that we all read, we all understand that that's why it's such a powerful, that's what Joseph Campbell was talking about with, with the hero with 1000 faces is that that is a very through line, I just literally had Chris Vogler on the show, who wrote the writers journey. And I was I actually tell him, I'm like, Chris, let's, let's talk for a second Chris. A lot of people say, you know, this Hero's Journey things out of the like, it's completely out of whack. You know, it's, it's done. Everybody knows that. We've all seen Star Wars, it's kind of blahs a, you know, is it even worth dealing with the hero's journey in today's very advanced storytelling audience? You know, the audience is so well versed? It's so much harder to be a storyteller today than it was, yeah, 400 years ago, 100 years ago, you could get away with so much. Yeah, that's totally true. And now you really got to know what you do. And he said something very, very. And I wanted to see what he said. And he's just like, Alex, I agree with you. 100%. It is one of many ways to do but elements of the hero's journey, all of those archetypes are in every story. Yeah, it's just that's regardless, if you want to believe it or not, there is always going to be a trickster somewhere, you know, depending on the story, you're telling, a trickster, a mentor, the old man that the young, the Young Buck was trying to, you know, become a man and all this, all of this kind of that's always gonna be there. But he goes, but of course, there's 1000, different kind of story structures, there's 1000 different ways to tell that story. But the hero's journey is, is a model that we it's it is the meat and potatoes, it is the foundation that we all kind of need to understand as a storyteller. Is that a fair statement?
K.M. Weiland 1:03:05
Yeah, I would agree with that. And I think that, you know, what I'm researching and exploring right now is, is the idea that the hero's journey is not the only one, specifically within just the basic, you know, really simplistic level of archetypal, mythic storytelling. And I think that's a lot of the reason why people you know, wonder, like, come on, hero's journey, one story, you know, one ring to rule them all.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:29
And by the way, you can, you can throw the hero's journey on almost any story, like, like, after the fact after the fact.
K.M. Weiland 1:03:37
And the truth of it is a because it's that occupied type of story, but also because it is, you know, it adheres to that three act structure. And so those beats, that's something that I am realizing is that, yes, it looks like the hero's journey applies to all stories, and it does often. But a lot of it is that we think we're not aware of these other these, you know, these other archetypal journeys. And so we just kind of say there's similarities, right, they all follow a similar arc, it's just more of a life progression as instead of it just being you know, the young buck the hero. So I think that's part of why people don't always it was why I didn't resonate with the hero's journey for a long time. I felt like it was just too confining. But then I started realizing like, this is totally, it's the three act structure it is it's right there. But the nuance, I do think that it changes and evolves. And that's something that I like, I want to start exploring more in my in a series on my site soon. Very cool, but yeah, I'm really excited about it. Um, but yeah, I think that the hero's journey is an incredibly important archetypal story. And that it's important because it's so simple. And I think that there's there's a difference between we think sometimes that complicated Stories are the way to go, you know the way to talk to our very sophisticated audience. And I don't think that's the truth at all. What we want is complex stories and complexity is born out of simplicity. It's that simple archetypal layer that's provided by archetypal stories like the hero's journey. And then we get to build the complexity on top of that, by really exploring those themes and asking those questions and, and looking at the million different, you know, angles on a story. That's, you know, its its complexity, but it's all coming out of the same base instead of, you know, being who knows what,All over the place.
Alex Ferrari 1:05:36
And that brings us back to James Cameron. Which is a perfect example the Terminator is, is is a is a question of like, will the machines eventually take over? There's that That's right. That's one question. But will love conquers all.
K.M. Weiland 1:05:51
And it's a very simple story. You know, it's basically three characters running. That's the story. Yes. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 1:05:59
Exactly. But there's so much complexity in that. And the themes that he the themes that he asks questions about, he asks a lot of questions in his in his movies. And that's a really, I think that's what really drives is his kind of storytelling. And all the films that he's made it is very um, that's why I'm really curious about the new avatars all four of them I think he's gonna be to wait for the next eight years or something. Like but anytime I anytime he comes out with something, people like, what do you think I'm like, dude, and Cameron I trust like, yeah, I can't like I stopped not betting on Cameron after Titanic. I was like, You know what? Just, if you can make this work, Brother, you can make almost anything work and just do what do you you do you James? Now I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all my guests. I usually ask like one to three screenplays that every screenwriter or storyteller should read. If that if you don't know anything specific, three screenplays, three films that which I mean, obviously, we were talking about Terminator. But yeah, other films. Yeah,
K.M. Weiland 1:07:07
I'm not much of a screenplay reader. So I will. I mean, I think that it's like super obvious, but I have to always go back to the original Star Wars, because I feel like that number one, I feel like it's gotten lost kind of in the, the new movies. But for me, there's no comparison. And I feel like that. I mean, that to me is that's the essence of our modern myth. And so I say, you know, go back to that one. I go back all the time constantly.
Alex Ferrari 1:07:36
But that's the you know, that's the hero's journey
K.M. Weiland 1:07:39
Alex Ferrari 1:07:40
perfect. personification of the hero's journey. And yet you go back to it constantly, even as as simplistic as the hero's journey is and everything but it's it's executed. It's like eating a really good apple pie. Like it's a simple thing. It's not a complex dessert that's going to explode. But if you do it well, you've got a business. Yeah.
K.M. Weiland 1:08:02
Well, and I think we see that with rallying right with the Harry Potter series again. I mean, so similar to Star Wars, and people just ate it up again, you know, and honestly, to me, Well, I mean, we'll leave that to the books. I guess I was gonna say the movies, but I know I recommended this the last time that I was on the show, but it's still my all time favorite movie. So I have to say it again. And that is the classic World War Two movie The Great Escape. This is directed by john Sturgis. Yeah, that's that one. To me. There's so much. It's such a simple story. Again, you know, guys want to escape. That so much complexity, so much character development, and the themes are so subtle. They're never stated. They're just, you know, there, but there's all of this, just this, this richness and this subtext that's happening there. And then number three, oh, why not say Terminator? I feel like, there's there's just a lot of goodness in that story. And I think it's, it's a really good counterpart to Star Wars. And that Star Wars is is very much the male hero's journey. And Terminator is this, in my opinion, Pitch Perfect female, the feminine journey, the feminine psychological journey. So I think that they're really good bookends. And it's so it's so awesome. It's so amazing that a man has written so many scripts and quit like some of the most impressive female leads in cinema history.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:32
He's written between aliens, and Terminator, and all of his films that he's worked on. A lot of them have really strong programming rows. I mean, she's a pretty strong, she's essentially the she ends up being the character that runs Titanic, as well,
K.M. Weiland 1:09:51
I think and I do think that that, you know, why not? You know, I think that archetype but we all have this deep archetypal understanding, and when he's telling archetypal stories, So Well, to me, it's like, Yeah, why not? And I think we see it with a rally. You know, there's a woman writing a story about what hero's journey and a boy Yeah. So it's like, that's the fun of writing, you know that we get to explore all of these things that are different from us. And do it from a place of deep psychological understanding that sometimes we don't even know we have.
Alex Ferrari 1:10:22
I wanted to ask you a side question because it just came up, you know, as a as a storyteller, you know, myself, and with the work that I've done over my life. As you get older, that that that's that perspective, that story, you tell yourself morphs and changes a lot. And a script that I might have written 10 years ago, I go back to and go. Ouch, that is definitely a perspective of a 30 year old. That is not the perspective of a 45 year old man who's gone through some other stuff in the last 15 years. There's such a focus on youth and telling that youth story of the young buck turning into a man or the virgin story of the on the woman set. But yet, you kind of touched on this earlier, there isn't a lot of story about the third chapter in our lives, or even the second chapter, there is a they're starting to get me in, you know, lifetime, pretty much. The the midlife crisis story for men or women going through like, Oh, god, I'm just joking, but but there is more stories now about people our age, and this kind of this kind of second chapter, you know, midway through chapter of our lives, but there is very few good stories about that, that the, the third chapter of our lives. Can you make an A make a it's also because it's harder to sell? Is that the main reason you think?
K.M. Weiland 1:11:55
Well, I think it's an interesting thing, because yeah, as I've been preparing to do this, this series, it's been very challenging to find really good examples of these later life arcs of the third act, you know, the third act of the human life? It's because there aren't a lot of them. And I think yes, to some degree, it's a hard sell, because you, like you say, we're a very youth centered culture who's terrified of death. So we really don't want to go there. Um, and because I think a lot of times when we do see stories about the, you know, the end of life, that they're not empowered stories, they're stories about, you know, coming to terms with death in a pretty limited way. And what I'm discovering is that, you know, there, there are empowering arc, the arcs in the second act, midlife and the arts and the third act for the elder years. They're just as powerful and magnificent, in some ways more so than what we've grown used to with the hero's journey. And I think it's just that we as a culture have so lost touch with our elders, you know, it's not a, we don't have very few of us really have people in our lives from that time in their lives, where they can, you know, we can see that and they can mentor us. And I think that's part of too even, you know, we don't have the mentor character, who shows up for us in our own Hero's Journey when we are young. And so there's a there is a missing piece, kind of I think that's that has happened within the archetypal story of our culture. So yeah, I think it's a hard sell. But I think there are some amazing stories to be told from those later arcs. And I'm not thinking of any examples off topic
Alex Ferrari 1:13:37
that I can give you one that is probably as Pitch Perfect as humanly possible, which is up. Yeah. Okay. Up is as perfect, opposite masterpieces that I mean in the first, basically that first three minutes is the best, the best summary of a human life I've ever seen. In my entire life. It's so well thought. But it's a it's an older character going on a hero's journey. He goes and his mentor happens to be a Boy Scout. Anyways, what
K.M. Weiland 1:14:10
it is, is it's the little boy who's going on a hero's journey, as he's the mentor, but it's told from his point of view, the characters all come full circle, right? It's the mentors in the hero's journey, who are the heroes of the third act character arcs, right? But we don't ever see that.
Alex Ferrari 1:14:26
Right. That's why I was so like everybody, and it's an animated kid's film, which is so brilliant. I can't like only Pixar could do something like that. But yeah, there aren't many good stories like that. But that's funny though, if you look up resonated with kids around the world as well as every every stage of life, from a kid all the way to, to someone in their elder years watches up and goes, Okay, I get it. I get it. And that's the kind of the if you can, if you can pull that off. You're doing so as a
K.M. Weiland 1:15:00
storyteller, that's that's the power of archetypal stories.
Alex Ferrari 1:15:04
Now, where can people find your new book and more about you and all the cool stuff you're doing?
K.M. Weiland 1:15:11
Yeah, so obviously the books on Amazon and all of those places that if they want to specifically look at what I'm doing, they can visit my website at helping writers become authors calm.
Alex Ferrari 1:15:21
Very cool. Katie, thank you so much for being on the show. I know I want to keep talking to you. I just want to keep, I just want to keep talking. I love I love talking story. I love going deep into this kind of nerdy story stuff. And it really helps me Just think about in all honesty, it just helps you think about life more.
K.M. Weiland 1:15:39
Alex Ferrari 1:15:40
It just makes you think about life and we are in a weird time.
K.M. Weiland 1:15:45
There's a lot to think about
Alex Ferrari 1:15:46
A lot of stuff going on right now in the world. And I feel like that's one of the reasons why we're gravitating to story and our Netflix, I have Netflix, Hulu, HBO mad like I got all of them, but like I just need, I need something to escape to. I need something to attach myself to to escape this crazy world we live in. But it does just help us get through the day of this insane existence that we call life. So I want I really, really appreciate you coming on the show. Thank you so much, and keep doing the good work that you're doing.
K.M. Weiland 1:16:16
Yeah, you too. Thank you so much for having me.
Alex Ferrari 1:16:19
I want to thank Katie for coming on the show and dropping her knowledge bombs on the bulletproof screenwriting tribe. Thank you so, so much, Katie. If you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, including how to buy her new book, writing your stories theme, head over to bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/099. And if you guys are as good as math as I am, you will know that the next episode will be Episode 100 of the bulletproof screenwriting podcast, it is a big, big landmark for this podcast. And I am so grateful and humbled and honored that you have allowed me to continue to make this podcast a reality and helping hopefully helping screenwriters around the world with their craft, and with how to survive, and to mark this monumental episode. Next week, I will be releasing a huge, huge guest on this podcast. I will not tell you anything else. Because I do not want to ruin the surprise. But it is going to be a fairly epic episode. And if that wasn't enough, ifH Academy is going to be bringing a big new course for screenwriters, which is going to be a game changer for the tribe. And I'll let you know more about that in the coming weeks. So keep an eye out for that. Now Christmas is just a couple days away. So I want to wish everyone listening who celebrates Christmas. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays. And I cannot wait till next week for you guys. Thank you again for listening. And as always keep on writing no matter what. Stay safe out there. And I'll talk to you soon.
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