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  1. TOmRL

    TOmRL Member

    Jul 14, 2014
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    Theme Themes/Commentary first or scenario first?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by TOmRL, Mar 2, 2015.

    I was wondering what writers here do first. Does your imagination come up with a powerful scenario for to later add meaning. Or do you start off with a theme or agenda and build the scenario around it "With my next book I wanna talk about socio-economic blah blah". And what are the advantages of each method? This is something I've always wondered.
  2. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Sep 6, 2014
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    I have the story first, and then themes/commentaries may or may not present themselves as I write.

    I don't think I have all that many books with "commentaries", as such. But themes definitely develop themselves, for me.
  3. Ben414

    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

    Aug 1, 2013
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    All other things constant, I would think a theme would work better first because it would allow you to construct every aspect of your story around the theme and achieve a strong thematic unity. Unfortunately, it seems that most people have difficulty picking a theme first and then building a story around it; story aspects such as specific characters or plot events seem to better capture the writer's imagination.

    I've tried picking the theme first, but I've been more happy with my results from developing the protagonist, inciting incident, setting, a list of potential major plot events, and then developing the theme. The theme allows me to update all of my prior work with changed and/or additional detail, and work out everything else to achieve strong thematic unity.

    Also, I should say that I think I do more planning before writing than most of the other writers here.
  4. Dunning Kruger

    Dunning Kruger Active Member

    Oct 24, 2014
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    For me, the theme is the basis for my story's conflict and the plot. Everytime I start with characters, world building or something else, I end up with a weak or underdeveloped plot. For the one short story I posted here I actually forgot to resolve the conflict because I started with a character and a scene rather than a theme. But then, for just about everything I do, I start off with the big picture and work my way down to the details. So this might be a function of my personality.
  5. Bryan Romer

    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 26, 2014
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    I really don't care about theme or commentary. I visualise a plot first, work out a basic structure, and the background etc. fall into place.
  6. Renee J

    Renee J Contributing Member

    Oct 7, 2013
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    Reston, VA
    I start with scenarios and think of a story around it. I don't really do commentary or themes unless they come up naturally.
  7. peachalulu

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    May 20, 2012
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    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Depends on the project. But mostly I start with one cloudy image in my mind that I want to bring into sharper focus. There's only been a few times that I've started with a theme in mind. Themes are pretty general so unless they have an idea attached to them it can be difficult to reign in a singular idea to explore the theme. Unless of course you narrow the theme down to something more concrete - like say taking - Hunger in society - and narrowing it down to - kids wasting food in contrast to those going without food. But even that has an implied idea and was actually used as a side theme in a children's book I read years ago - Daphne's Book by Mary Downing Hahn. She contrasted the mc's & her brother's ability to take snacks for granted and begrudge being taken out to dinner ( by their mother's date ), while the mc's new friend & her little sister weren't getting enough to eat and even a cup of hot chocolate was a treat.

    Whatever you choose be flexible to the characters and their story. You don't want to bend the story around a theme. You want the story to explore the theme. Meaning there are no easy answers.
    Okon and 123456789 like this.
  8. Nilfiry

    Nilfiry Contributing Member

    Aug 4, 2008
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    Eternal Stream
    Actually, both at the same time, even though not on purpose. In my style, I often like to put the theme in the solution of the scenario.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2015
  9. Siena

    Siena Contributing Member

    Jun 3, 2012
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    You can add meaning to powerful scenarios.

    But I think generally, because the whole story is so representative of the theme, you can't help but avoid writing the story around the theme. Especially in the later rewrite stages.

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