1. JPGriffin
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    JPGriffin Senior Member

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    Is a theme necessary for a good plot?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by JPGriffin, Jul 18, 2011.

    When I find myself thinking of plot lines for possible books, I always seem to look at the story more than the overall theme. Is this generally bad practice, or can there be a story for the sake of a good read?
     
  2. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Of course there can be a story for the sake of a good read. But you'll probably find some traces of theme creeping in anyway, even if you're not conscious of them. Just about everybody has their own philosophical convictions, or at least ideas, and these wind up in the writing. Your attitudes and concerns will pervade your work.
     
  3. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Don't force a theme. Focus on the story, and the theme will show itself. Readers want to be able to analyze themes for themselves, not be spoon-fed, and focusing too much on a theme will make it seem too obvious. You'll hammer the readers over the head, even if you don't realize you're doing it.

    Write your plots with passion, and give your heroes traits you care about. This on its own will create themes readers will be able to recognize.

    A lot of it's subconscious, too. Reading back on your own work and finding themes and symbolism that you didn't even intend to create is a pretty awesome feeling.
     
  4. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    ^Well said, Mallory! :D I completely agree.
     
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  5. Holden
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    Holden Senior Member

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    I believe it was Stephen King who said themes come through when he reads his first draft over again. If you try and write a theme into a story, it comes off as preachy. Don't be Ayn Rand; you're book will suffer because of it (well, hers seemed to do well, but not for good reason). If you want to include those themes (and lose me as a reader), feel free. But build up the plot and the characters; I'm sure the theme will come through in your writing.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The only "theme" to a plot is a categorization of the conflict. If you mean the theme of a story, as others have said, don't force it. If you are trying hard to deliver a message, it will come off as ham handed.
     
  7. polarboy
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    polarboy Member

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    I started reading this thread and immediately thought of Stephen King's book On Writing. But I see you've beaten me to it. King says that he doesn't intentionally place themes in his writing--but if he happens to see a theme when the first draft is done, then he might accentuate what is already there during the revision. As an aside, I highly recommend that book to anyone interested in creative writing--regardless of genre.
     
  8. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have a similar problem. I can't seem to give a proper one-or-two-sentences-definition for the theme of my story.
     
  9. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Ditto. I can't actually summarise my story at all. Tells you what a mess my first draft is doesn't it? :redface:
     
  10. JPGriffin
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    JPGriffin Senior Member

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    And that's why it's called a first draft.
     
  11. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    well, im not even on the first draft anymore.... ;) I feel I should be able to, but maybe to someone else it will be obvious when I let them read it, just that for me it is about so many things that I have difficulties to narrow it down to one theme. Love, yes, but I need to give this some serious thinking. It's just that I haven't been doing that and before submitting it I will have to.
     
  12. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Then perhaps your theme is existential confusion.

    See, no matter what you do, there will be a theme in it, somehow.
     
  13. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    LOl! probably, yeah. :D I sat down on my lunchbreak with my notebook and tried to write down what I wanted to say with this novel and came up with several things, but basically it's two major subjects.Then I thought that each one of the characters have different goals in this story, how does that affect the theme? Does it mean I have to keep the theme I chose in mind when editing and trying to make it more clear or do I just keep it the way it is? Sorry for all the questions, it wasn't even my thread...
     
  14. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    So true. I have the same problem. When someone asks me "What's your story about?" I don't know what to tell them. Is it about my hero trying to find out his identity or the Shadow War that drags him into his journey? Clearly it's both, but that feels like 2 plots... T_T And besides, that's not a theme.

    I didn't have a theme when I started this. It was inspired by the RPG Baldur's Gate 2 lol :D
     
  15. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    :D I so recognize that feeling of embarassment, or whatever you want to call it. I think for me it makes me feel that people probably won't take my writing seriously if I can't even explain that, LOL. But I am serious, I just have defining-issues, hihi. I can say as much as that it is about both children repeating their parents mistakes AND understanding what true love is, something like that. (this was very simplified because I haven't finished defining yet ;) ) but how can I choose which one is the most important? they are undeniably connected.
     
  16. beaver777
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    beaver777 Member

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    Why is the theme important? It sounds a lot like trying to give the text some artificial purpose, when the purpose could be simply to entertain (for example).
     
  17. BobLobLaw
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    BobLobLaw Member

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    It's not bad practice, and most people don't look for the theme intentionally. It mostly comes as a result of the writing itself.
     
  18. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just say it, like all stories, is about 'someone who wants something'.

    To paraphrase Desire from Sandman: Endless Nights.
     
  19. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    exactly. :)
    And someone else who's keeping him from achieving it.
     
  20. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Btw, you cannot *believe* how relieved I am to find that it's normal NOT to be able to sum up your story :D I thought I was alone!! I just made me feel like I didn't really know my story o_O (not being able to sum it up, that is)

    Someone who wants something... heheh, feels more like it's a bunch of random people who all want one thing actually! (and one person who wants something entirely different :rolleyes: )
     
  21. berky
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    berky Member

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    When Francsis Ford Copolla made a movie, he always had a theme or idea in mind to help him direct and guide his story. In the Godfather, he always wanted to theme of "Lineage" in the back of his mind, and that drove him to make the decisions he made. The film itself was an adaptation, but his idea of what he wanted to do with the content came from that core idea.

    I like to think this is important for a story writer. A theme that may not necessarily be aimed at teaching or preaching to the audience, but is there to help guide the Writter into making a more compelling and focused tale.
     
  22. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I feel the same way, I thought I was alone :D When stories comes to my mind they don't arrive as a theme, but more like a certain situation that causes the mc to take important decitions. The theme I don't even give any thought in the initial stage, but maybe I should... I recently read a published writers blog where she said that she didn't think much of the theme at first either, but that sort of emerged when the book was ready and she were telling people (publishers, press, buyers etc) about it. Maybe we're not entirely hopeless after all ;)
     
  23. Word Dancer
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    Word Dancer Member

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    I've worried about having a theme for my stories as well. I have found themes in some stories after I've written them, others I can't find any but I still think they're decent stories.

    Also does theme necessarily mean moral? I didn't think it did.
     
  24. Anders Backlund
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    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

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    I generally rely heavily on themes in my writing, but I think it's more because having themes to focus on helps me write and keep track of what the story is really about, rather then me actually trying to get the theme across to the reader.

    Basically, if the readers notices the theme, that's great, but my priority is telling a fun story that they can lose themselves in.
     

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