1. Justin Rocket 2

    Justin Rocket 2 Senior Member

    Jun 13, 2013
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    Recognizing Theme

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Justin Rocket 2, May 16, 2015.

    I believe that the theme of a story guides the creation of everything else from the symbolic web to the plot points. But, very often, the theme is buried deep in my subconscious and I can't figure it out, consciously, until after a lot of the things it shapes are already written down.

    I view this as inefficient writing and believe I could be more productive if I recognized, consciously, what the theme was earlier in the writing process.

    Are there any tools you use to recognize your theme as early as possible?
  2. james82

    james82 Active Member

    May 15, 2015
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    Boston, MA
    I don't think you necessarily need to recognize your theme as early as possible, as it will
    eventually emerge as your characters begin to come to life and your plot takes shape.

    The best advice is to not approach your novel through theme.
    Only one out of a thousand writers says, "I think I'll write a book on such-and-such a theme!
    Now what should my characters and plot be?" Barbara Kingsolver might be able to do this,
    but a first-time novelist creating a story this way would probably come off sounding preachy,
    fake, stilted, lifeless, and unreadable. Remember, your job is to write the best story you can
    in the best way you know how. The themes you will address in the novels you will write will be
    themes that are a part of you. They will come out naturally in the stories you fall in love with,
    the stories you write with care.

    Ann Rittenberg.

    Now, this particular author also says to not name your novel after your theme, meaning to not make
    the title of your novel apply to the theme. But I don't agree with that. I'm actually writing a story now,
    more of a short story in the form that it's currently in, in which my title does apply to the theme,
    not the premise. It never meant to be that way, but well into the writing process I'd realized it is that way.
    In other words, the title is left for the reader to interpret, but I feel, by the time they, potential readers,
    get to the end of my story and finish it, they will look at the title I have chosen again with a
    new found focus and know exactly why I chose it. What it means.
    Last edited: May 16, 2015
  3. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

    May 20, 2012
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    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Real themes never really come about for me until after the first or even second draft. I have vague things that helps shape some of the action. For instance say I wanted to do a story on hunger- that was my initial vague theme and I decided I would use a child whose parents didn't get paid enough and one spent most of the paychecks on booze. The child lived for free hot lunches at his school but was so embarrassed at taking them would rather go hungry. Say that's my idea but as the first draft evolves so would my theme because hunger is too vague and it must be narrowed down to decide what I want to say about it - what if it's the helplessness of hunger - which could be displayed not only in the booze buying parents but the child. What if it's the embarrassment of hunger - who knows.

    I would say start with a general theme, very vague, and let something take shape in your first or second draft. You might decide ( using the same example as above ) that hunger really isn't your theme at all it's pride or sacrifice. I wouldn't get too hung up on specific details that will make you too self conscious when you write a scene or create symbolism or metaphors. If you let your subconscious have some free reign he'll come up with the goods.

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