Most novels have an easily understood point to make to the reader, do your stories ever have more subtle or intuitive themes?
Thank you Robin for this month's topic.
An easily understood theme. This statement caused to me chuckle.
When I complete my novel/short-story/article, etc. the theme is easily understood. Not so when I first sit down at the keyboard.
Even though I write with only a very basic outline (I've evolved or devolved into a panster in my writing process).
And, this process, involves a great deal of fumbling during the process:
1. Look for Your Character’s Theme
Theme is always rooted in character. Your characters, specifically your protagonist, will tell you what your theme is about. Even if you try to tack on another theme, what your story is really about is whatever is at the heart of your character’s internal struggle.
This means you can’t just dream up some wild and unexpected thematic premise and squirt it onto your story like Dijon mustard onto a hot dog bun. You have to start with what you’ve already got. Look at your character—who she/he is and what she//he wants—and look at what she’s/he's doing in the plot.
Now look harder.
Let’s say you’re me and you’re writing a time-travel story (which, it so happens, I am). It’s novella 3 of my Sassy and Fun Fantasy Series about a professor of ancient civilizations and her not-historically-inclined fiancee. While she's the one who finds herself in ancient Egypt, he's the one tasked with bringing her home in time for their wedding. No superpowers or cell phones in this plot-line.
On its surface, that’s a story about good versus the unknown/evil, with true-love thrown in as a side dish. No superpowers, cell phones, or time-traveling map. Our main characters are in huge trouble.
So we dig deeper. We look at what specific struggles this character is facing.
What does he want?
Why does he want it?
What is he willing to selflessly sacrifice to get it?
What is he willing to selfishly sacrifice?
What will he gain and what will he lose by the story’s end?
How will he have changed?
When asking yourself these questions about your character, the right answers probably won’t be immediately evident. You’ll have to think about them. You’ll have to recognize and reject most of the obvious answers. In the process, you may find your conception of the character and plot evolving into something deeper right alongside your theme. Since it's ancient Egypt, it will be an intuitive theme.
2. What’s a General Question You Feel You’re Always Asking About Life?
Don’t stop at the “little” life questions right there in front of your face. Look up and look out. What are the big questions that it seems like you’re always asking in one way or another? Obviously, a novella or short-story won't have a multi-layered plot or a wide-cast-of-characters but there's always a purpose.
3. What’s a Virtue You Feel Is Undervalued?
If you’re writing a story with a Positive Change Arc and a happy ending, then your theme will probably focus on affirming a virtue—love, courage, justice, mercy, kindness, self-sacrifice. If this so, don’t just pick the obvious one—love for romance and courage for action. Instead, choose one that is important to you and that you feel is either undervalued in the world or underrepresented in fiction.
4. I believe Universal Truths Can’t be Unique.
It’s the way a character wrestles with truth that touches a chord of recognition in the reader. The story feels both thin and heavy-handed when the theme is obvious. Which is not to say that the theme should be deliberately obscured–but that the individual character’s struggle with the theme is what matters most. I find I often rely on my writer's intuition resulting in a subtle secondary theme.
5. Translating into my Stories.
"Lynx" Rodeo Romance deals with several themes, one of which is a personal one. The same is true of "Tanayia--Whisper upon the Water". I believe this is why these novels have received awards and reviews. Tapping into personal experiences and memories/trauma ring 'true' to others.
The heart never lies.
On the lighter-side:
These two were banished from my office, for all of ten minutes, for wrestling.
|Chanel (background) Gavin (foreground)|
Visit these talented writers to see what stories they are sharing this month:
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-22c
Anne Stenhouse http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobincourtright.com