Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wednesday's Writer's Tip - Theme and Strategy


What is the theme of this story? That's a question heard so often in lit. classes. I know I always struggled to decide what was behind the author;s writing of a book and I'm not sure I ever really knew. Stories are based on ideas and if one takes ten writers and presents them with the same basic idea, 10 different stories would emerge with each author taking their own views and translating them into the stories. For myself I've written one story that grew from a theme but I didn't discover this until I was through a rough draft of the story and suddenly what I was trying to say became clear. In this story each of the characters had an obsession and where these obsessions lead was what held the story together. So what the theme boils down to is the writer's reason for the story.

I read in a book called Thrme and Strategy of the many types of themes that exist in stories. Some I understood and some I didn't. Most of the time I write stories using the theme of escape. Meaning I create worlds with words that will allow the reader to escape for a time be it with mystery, romance, fantasy or adventure. This is probably the theme of most popular novels and there's nothing wrong with that. Sometimes these stories go beyond the escape pattern and sometimes they fail.

Part of the reason for this failure is the author becomes preachy and shoves the theme in the reader's face. Not a good thing to do. This makes the reader want to toss the book away. Here are some general themes a writer might attempt. Escape. Action. Here the story moves from one event to another in rapid succession. Effect where what happens in the story is the important. Horror stories use this as the theme frequently. Character as a theme shows the life of a particular person and his effect on others or theirs on him or her. Morality and this can cause problems if over preaching is done. Coming of age is another where the character moves from innocence into knowledge. Other themes can be style and often is seen in literary stories. Human relationships and human nature are two others which are related to character themes.

As you write, perhaps your theme will be revealed. You will know what it is but don't be surprised if the reader finds something different. Theme is the writer's reaction to an idea and as they write, the reason for writing this particular story comes from inside them.

1 comment:

Celtic Chick said...

Great writing tip. I've had themes in my stories that came about by accident. One that I can think of is a spring theme that I had--how spring brings about new life and beginnings, but then I realized that spring in Dark Age Scotland also meant battles and loss. So the book has a lot of new beginnings and loss for the characters and how that affected them.