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  1. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    So, theme, what is it?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Wayjor Frippery, May 15, 2016.

    Over in another thread, talking about passive voice, @NiallRoach said this:
    And then @Wreybies said this:
    I will bite.

    So what is theme? I just got here from Mars. I know nothing. What are we talking about when we talk about theme?
     
  2. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    Not speaking for everyone here but in my writing there's a much bigger chance that any appearance of 'theme' is a typo where i meant to say 'the me' or 'them'.
     
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  3. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    It is everything not told but shown.
     
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  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    My take on the definition of this is what I mean whenever I ask a member what their story is about, I question which I invariably follow up with saying not the plot, not the things that happen, but the why of writing your story.

    My WIP called Three Thirteen is about forgiveness. That's the theme of that story. I don't sell an idea about forgiveness (a polemic), I explore the idea in the form of questions for the reader to consider.
     
  5. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    I would call 'theme' - 'purpose'.

    What story does your story have to tell? What is its heart of hearts, why do you have to write it? Events are nothing, a story has a character and it wants to be heard and understood.

    *headscratch* that reads a bit new-agey ;)
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2016
  6. No-Name Slob
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    No-Name Slob Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I just love seeing you pop up in threads. I think you're the only person I've ever interacted with who might just display as much disdain for one's own writing as I do. :rofl:
     
  7. No-Name Slob
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    No-Name Slob Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I can't fathom how there might be a debate about this, and I'm very interested to hear a different perspective. Theme can be boiled down to what the author is trying to communicate through the story. Like @Wreybies and @Lifeline said, it's the overall why factor -- the purpose of the story.
     
  8. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    @No-Name Slob : I guess it is a difficult concept if you are not used to it. I know I struggled at the beginning, I just wanted to tell the story and had no idea that there would be an underlying theme. Okay I have to amend that. I KNEW the theme deep down but I hadn't put it in so many - or even one - word ;)
     
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  9. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I agree with Wreybies.
    I also think it's kinda spiritual as it holds your universe together. There's no 'accidents', or 'by chances' things are coming together by the writer's design and for the beauty of a reason. Nothing is random everything has intrinsic meaning building to your core theme.
     
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  10. KokoN
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    KokoN Active Member

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    I like what @Wreybies said about theme. I would also add that when I think of themes, plural, in a story (not just the main theme/reason why you wrote it), I think of reoccurring ideas in a story. It might not be the reason you wrote it, but it is something that keeps coming up, that the author is forcing you to think about while you read.
     
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  11. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Absolutely agree. When someone first asked me what the theme of my novel was, I was a bit stumped. Was I meant to have one of those? I thought my characters were just going on an exciting adventure.

    Having thought about, I do have a core theme about family. - especially about the extremes people will go to, to save their family. (My wife and I worked our way through several seasons of supernatural while I was writing my first draft - and I think I subconsciously got influenced by it on the thematic level.)

    I've got a bunch of minor themes as well, - but that's my core theme that runs through both major POV character's arcs. I'm glad I know. It makes me more confident that I can edit my novel into a satisfying read.
    One of my minor themes I'd identify as the reason I was originally writing my novel. - but it rather ended up being shunted into the background. I don't think that's a problem. It could still become a core theme if I write a sequel.
     
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  12. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Here's a book by Lajos Egri that will tell you all about it. This link goes to Amazon.ca, so you may have to adjust to find it available to your country.
     
  13. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    I think you missed the irony in my OP. It's your opinion I'm interested in. My own ideas are very clear on the subject (although open to change, of course). :)

    ETA: Book does look interesting though...
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2016
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  14. Robert Musil
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    Robert Musil Contributing Member

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    Pace most of the posters above me, I don't think theme has anything to do with intentionality, or "why" you're writing what you're writing. As @No-Name Slob and @plothog implied, you can go through the whole writing process and not consciously have a theme in mind, and still turn out a complete narrative at the end. I guess I think theme is more in the eye of the reader--they'll always see things there that you didn't intend, and I think they'll also try and give the whole thing an internal coherence in a way that maybe you also didn't intend. Or is this all too "death of the author"-y?

    I guess my quick-and-dirty definition of theme would be any summary of a story that is so boiled-down to its most basic level, that it can't be expressed by a grammatically complete sentence. People always say their theme is something like "forgiveness" or "the extremes people will go to for their families". Nobody ever says their theme is "Katniss Everdeen volunteered for the Hunger Games because she loved her sister so much." It doesn't sound like a theme, when you put it that way.

    Is this a definition so vague as to be useless? Probably. But it's just an inherently vague term. Don't blame me.
     
  15. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think theme includes things specific to only that story. (Hence a description of a story's theme wouldn't ever include words like, 'Katniss Eberdeen' or 'Hunger Games') It's a concept that is explored during the story, but could just as effectively be explored in many other stories with different settings and casts. (and probably you can think about how the theme could apply in real life too.)
     
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  16. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    My bad. I thought you wanted usable advice. ;)
     
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  17. Siena
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    Siena Active Member

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    It's the central idea being communicated.

    e.g.
    For Beauty and the Beast it would be "don't judge a book by its cover."

    It's the root of the characters, their choices, their growth and pretty much everything.

    kalbashir.com explains it in detail.
     
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  18. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    My book has complex themes I might currently sum up as:

    Class, cultural, gender and generational divides through different perceived realities. It also deals with privilege and the lack of it.

    I probably should try to make a compete sentence out of it.
     
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  19. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    So everything builds to one thing? I'm afraid we live in different universes. No good story can be about one thing to me. ALL THE STUFF! I have progressively realized recently (year or two) that a lot of the elements of my personal style have to do with commitment. Putting lots in and caring about making that stuff big and awesome. Now I think about creative stuff a lot, hence why I end up with a style that emphasised that, and I could rant about my concepts a lot. But ironically I'm not very good at actually writing it. Especially when I go all "Ooh, shiny" and can't focus on one idea long enough to finish it. XD.
     
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  20. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    I think themes are two different potential things. The first if the one more easily recognised; a message. There is more often just one main one. And a few little tiny ones. Then there is the other; a question. A feeling. An idea. Just to contemplate it. For example: the idea of death. just to contemplate it. Or the feeling of anger. Just to contemplate it. The question of how moral people are. Just to contemplate it. I prefer these to straight-up message, I think they're arguably more profound. But more importantly, I love the idea of writing that lets you think about it yourself. I like to describe things quite clearly, and I will generally make my themes clear, but it's often about presenting alternate points of view and different takes on a question. Not always, I do have clear messages. Strange Days is about my philosophy of life. But I like to present some alternation and doubt. Especially since it's going to be more polarising and, therefore potentially unpleasant, if it feels like I'm trying to force my views on people. Though that doesn't apply with everything, and not to the same levels either when it does. Can't be too considerate.(Babbly babble is babbling, will shut up now.).
     
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  21. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    :meh:
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2016
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  22. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    I'm not sure about this notion of not having a theme in mind. Everything has themes. And if you write an engaging, purposeful story major themes will arise early on that you can work with. But I agree with a lot of what you said. And I suppose I include general contemplation of an idea or question as a theme which not everyone would do.
     
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  23. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    You came all the way from Mars just to ask what a theme is? I'm having trouble with this particular role play.
     
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  24. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    One of the best ways to understand theme is to look at the themes in books you are familiar with.

    Sparknotes Themes search, take your pick.

    MacBeth, To Kill a Mockingbird, Romeo and Juliet, 1984, The Great Gatsby....

    Take Fahrenheit 451 for example:
    Censorship and Knowledge vs Ignorance
     
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  25. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    :meh:
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2016
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