Dropdown menu

Friday, August 25, 2006

Theme? Wot's that?

Okay, first, I want to thank Margery for giving me this topic. She asked a question about it in a group we belong to, and I ran with it. Poor gal, she has to wade through my response to her question, and really, this post will probably be much more coherent and informative than the one I sent. Which leads to point number one:

1. While some people are brilliant geniuses who nail it on the first go around, I am not one of them. In fact, most people who do theme well also do not do it perfectly on the first draft. Why comes out in point #2:

2. Good theme takes a lot of digging. You have to know your characters inside and out-what makes them tick, why that makes them tick, and how it all relates to how they relate to the other characters and to the story. Somewhere, buried in all that muck, you will find the theme. It also means that you may have to some rewriting in places where the theme is murky at best. Taking the time to do that, though, will make the book work better for the reader.

3. How I find my theme (I feel like I'm writing a school paper):

I write the book first. I do have a theme in mind when I begin. Almost always, that does not end up being the theme of the book, but it does give me a starting point of reference for the. For example, my current book. The theme was believing in miracles. While it is still a strong element in the book, it's not the theme. Why? Because I realized that there was something deeper to the question of believing in miracles. I decided to dig deeper and find what that was. In digging deeper, I realized that I had something more emotionally powerful than the miracle aspect of the story. I decided to go with the emotional power punch-which both the hero and heroine share, but manifests in different ways, giving me more room to explore the theme.

Maggie Osborne, who first introduced me to the idea of making theme important, once said that she will start a book without first having the theme. Something which Lori Wilde also uses and talks about in this eHarleqin Q&A, Proving your theme in every scene . If you are at all confused about theme, I highly recommend this as a resource. In fact, I think I'm going to go back and print it for my own reference. :)

I think it is absolutely CRITICAL that every scene has to explore the theme. Which is why I changed mine. I realized that I didn't do that, and more importantly, I seemed to be spending a longer time on the theme that I ended up going with. And as I continue talking about theme, I'm realizing how poor of a job I do at writing it. Huh. Ya think that might be my problem? (insert stupid face here)

The other thing I'd like to point out about theme is that while I'm not busom buddies with any NYT Bestselling authors, I can say that every single one of them that I've had the opportunity to listen to talk about writing has emphasized the importance of theme. IMO, if you wanna be one of them, you'd better be listening to them when they're doling out advice.

So... off I go... to the wild blue theme (it just doesn't work right instead of yonder, does it? But at least I'm no longer singing cartoon songs)


Camy Tang said...

I like this post, especially when you said that every scene should explore the theme. I think that's what makes some books stand out more than others--there's that thematic cohesiveness to every single scene.


Danica/Dream said...

Exactly! Of course, making that happen is easier said than done!