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The Golden Theme: How to make your writing appeal to the highest common denominator Paperback – October 20, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0984178674 ISBN-10: 0984178678

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Libertary Editions (October 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0984178678
  • ISBN-13: 978-0984178674
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #376,502 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Brian McDonald is an award-winning director/writer who has written for comic books, A&E's HOARDERS and directed spots for VISA. His film WHITE FACE has run on HBO and CINEMAX and is used in corporations nation-wide as a diversity-training tool.

A sought after instructor and consultant, Brian has taught his story structure seminar at PIXAR, DISNEY FEATURE ANIMATION and LUCASFILM's ILM.


His books are considered required reading for Pixar story interns. McDonald has worked on the Red Badge project for the US Army - a program designed to help returning vets suffering from PTSD learn to write stories in order to help them in their healing.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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This little book tells what any crafter of story wants to know -- or should want to know.
Suzanna Stinnett
This book manages to be an easy read that actually teaches you some deep things about the craft we love, writing.
I would recommend it to anyone interested in story, from a writing or reading standpoint.
David Lillie

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By J. Bland on October 29, 2010
Format: Paperback
Though Dutch Detective gives this book one star, he confusingly encourages others to read it. I agree with his self-contradictory wise advice.

The book's principal argument -- stories embody a central dialectic: at the deepest level they reiterate the golden theme, while their fictive surfaces ensnare us in a world of immediacy, atremble with particular plots and characters.

Therefore McDonald advices writers to not only remain sensitive to what makes them different from all other human beings (transformed by craft into unique characters, settings and events) but also to what makes them identical to every human being (transformed by craft into moral argument, thus the ubiguity of the golden theme in fiction)

This book renders deft, excellent, timely advice made more trail-blazing by McDonald's ease with argumentative nuance and keen selection of story-telling examples. As a script analyst from CAA, DreamWorks, and Fox; I've encountered hundreds of scripts that would have profitted from their authors having read, studied and reflected upon this volume. Or perhaps I should compare this book to a mine; its pages, gold.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 30, 2010
Format: Paperback
In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that Brian has been my storytelling/screenwriting/filmmaking teacher for over three years now and that, as such, I'm liable to be biased in what I say about his newest book. However, also in the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that what I say in the below is very much sincere.

It's difficult to speak clearly about this book that has had so much thought, study, and sheer love of storytelling put into it without my words reading like so much empty praise. But I'll try.

"The Golden Theme" is obsessed with the tradition of storytelling, to the point that the book's driving force is the most fundamental question of all story-craft questions. It is a question not pertaining to dialogue or character, incident or structure, or even "theme" in the everyday sense. Rather, the book asks "Why do human beings need stories to begin with?"

This isn't a book of ambiguities, however, obsessed with questions and ignorant of coherent answers. The author has the courage to take a stand here, plant his flag in the ground, and share with us what 30,000 hours of study has led him to believe about this simultaneously fundamental and ephemeral thing we call "storytelling".

His argument is, like all incredibly persuasive ideas, simple in the final analysis. And though you may not agree with his conclusion after 100-odd pages of clear argument and example, it is hard not to be moved by its heart-felt battle cry.

Perhaps of equal import, however, is that the book never violates Billy Wilder's No. 1 rule of storytelling: "Never bore them." And although the preceding paragraphs may make "The Golden Theme" sound like a sniveling academic's swan song to some, in reality the book is anything but.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By paula coomer on April 5, 2011
Format: Paperback
I have spent many years teaching creative writing, so I am always interested in new craft books. Based on Brian McDonald's opening pages, I did not expect The Golden Theme to tell me anything new. I was pleasantly surprised. I learned quite a bit about Brian's perspective on story, and while I can't say I'm a complete convert, I can say that I'll add a few of his tools to my toolbox and would consider using his book for introductory and intermediate classes, and will pass along the recommendation to other teachers of craft.

I do not truly believe, as the book asserts, that we are all the same, however. I've lived too long and seen too much to buy that part. I know for a fact that I am not a Jeffrey Dahmer, nor am I a Mother Theresa, or a Barack Obama, or a Saddam Hussein. But the golden theme is a foundational idea that is a very good place for a beginning storyteller to start. I do believe that the goal of many good stories is to explicate our humanity, to reveal what exactly humanity is. And I do believe that the reader should be able to recognize some part of him- or herself in the pages of a good story. Reader-response theory is something we talk about in literature classes, but it is also considered to be the simplest way to look at a text, and if that is all we are about to see in a tale, then we give it that awful tag: Hollywood.

What makes me so excited about the Golden Theme is the story the book itself tells. It tells the story of a man who has found something in which to believe--that all of humankind can be whittled down to a sentence: we are all the same. Brian McDonald made a discovery about himself and projected onto all of us as readers in a way that we are happy to accept.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By MN2LA on April 28, 2011
Format: Paperback
We are all the same.

So claims Brian McDonald in The Golden Theme: How to Make Your Writing Appeal to the Highest Common Denominator.

He's right.

Crediting his discovery of this Golden Theme to a walk through a cemetery, Mr. McDonald enlightens his readers to the simple fact that all who lived before were warmed by the same sun and slept under the same night sky. While birth and death are the most overt connections each individual shares, we also share in thirst and hunger; we all worry, dream, lament, laugh and cry; and as a popular children's book so eloquently states - everybody poops.

Recognizing our base connections as human beings is key to understanding The Golden Theme and instilling it in one's writing. Creating characters that are relatable is essential for crafting stories that will resonate with audiences. Brian McDonald offers myriad Golden Theme examples and applicable anecdotes in this solid follow up to Invisible Ink: A Practical Guide to Building Stories that Resonate.

Some may fail to grasp the profound lessons in Brian McDonald's writings. His teachings are not of a traditional do-this/don't-do-that format. Instead he offers large, digestible nuggets of story guidance for the hungry scribe seeking more depth in his or her writing.

Deceptively deep for the quick read it is, The Golden Theme is a golden addition to any storyteller's library.
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