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  1. isaac223

    isaac223 Active Member

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    What's in a Theme?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by isaac223, Jan 14, 2019.

    I'm currently working on a whodunit one-shot tentatively titled Bored to Death.

    Bored to Death takes place in Mudstock, a sleepy mountain town and "the most desperately boring place on this great big blue ball of wonder".

    In one dramatic pitch to stave off boredom, the friends, in response to a story told to them by one of their own, illegitimately enter the abandoned mansion of a dead art collector who is said to return to the mortal world on nights of a full moon and live his life out for one final day in the body of the statues he prized so much. However, it is there that one of the friends is found to have been murdered during their ghost hunting expedition by a weapon wielded by one of the very statues they had been there to investigate. Despite claims of immortal instruments, one ultimate truth prevailed: it is one of the teens among them that had committed murder.

    The catch?

    The weapons are much too heavy to swing around in pursuit of bloody homicide, and the body was locked away in a room totally isolated from the established murder weapon. A two-fold impossible crime, and the only thing standing between the culprit and total freedom on the excuse of spectral forces at work is the infamous skeptic, Alvis Bower.


    One of the features I wanted to be preeminent in the story is the fact that every character reflects a different response to boredom. We have the sleepy depressive with a dry sense of humor, the attention-defficient with loads of pent-up energy, the overeater, the foreigner who locks herself in room and escapes through television, etc.. Despite being archetypes, all of these features are results of their awareness of the overwhelming boredom of the town they live in. And, naturally, not only do these features play into the overarching mystery, but they are also reflected in the characters' response to the events of the story, and play into deviating themselves from the archetype or stereotypes they've come to fit.

    But the problem is: if I'm using "boredom" as a character theme, how important or how forward should it be in the story? Is just having it be a persisting topic enough? And what is the exact way one goes about establishing and utilizing a theme? Should it be analytical of the subject matter (the theme) at hand? What is the right way to handle a "theme" in a story and a whodunit no less -- a school of mystery writing that puts the puzzle aspect first and the literary aspect second (not to say that it isn't "important" to mystery writing, but its generally considered right to consider every part of it as how it would affect the "puzzle")?
     
  2. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Active Member

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    Theme essentially concerns the lessons, the wisdom, the morale contained within a story.
    It’s not the moral of the story. It’s not an answer–it’s a question. And here’s the thing about questions: they very often have more than one answer.
    You have to figure out what the question is behind your theme. Be careful because theme can come across as preachy and you're not trying to bring everyone round to your view, just explore it. I prefer it when theme takes a back seat but is well explored. Boredom is a difficult theme to explore because it's easily curable. You could have a character that has everything and is still bored and a character who has nothing but always finds things to do - that is exploring the theme. Not every character needs to be bored. Look at how boredom is beat, and the consequences if it is not. How to people react when they are so bored it drives them mad.
     
  3. LazyBear

    LazyBear Member Supporter

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    A theme in a story about boredom can be the positive sides of it. When you're constantly flooded with input, your brain stops being creative on its own. We're made to take turns making the jokes, but now we're constantly spoon fed with television shows and social media. You need boredom once in a while to discover new interests and reflect on where your life is going.
     
  4. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Senior Member

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    Are you using boredom as a theme or as a topic?

    I'm not sure if I'm missing something but it sounds more like a topic than a theme to me.
     
  5. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    My only addition to this question is to make sure your story has another entry point for the reader that is not dependent on the reader groking this substructural theme. Literalism is the word of the day and many readers are not willing to get their hair wet and dive under the surface of plot and events to appreciate the underlying structure.

    In a conversation with an interpreter friend (that's my field) we were discussing Everything is Illuminated (2002) by Jonathan Safran Foer (the book, not the film) and the symbols and mythologies present in this Magic Realism story. The Magic Realism elements are much less evident in the film because an entire half of the original book-story is missing, which is the mythologized origins of Trochenbrod.

    I read a story that had to do with deep mythology and Slavic and Jewish archetypes.
    He engaged a story that had to do with the real-life events and fallout of the story and tragedy of Sofievka, around which this book was written.
    I read characters that represented memory and the very land itself, indelibly marked by the merciless ravages of history and time, yet heartstoppingly beautiful nonetheless.
    He read a story about Polish and Ukranian people and how they are engaged by Americans.

    Neither of us was wrong; we just entered the story at different points and luckily there was more than one point of entry.
     
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  6. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Senior Member

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    I think it like that:

    Plot is what happens.

    Theme is what kind of character development is needed.

    Topic is what things or matters plot and theme use.

    Premise is the story in one sentence.

    Promise of the premise is what that one sentence hints or promises.

    Erin Brocovich ==>

    Premise: A woman fights big and dishonest company that poisons environment and peoples.

    Promise: Underdog -fight.

    Plot: (Seek yourself)

    Theme: Erin grows to be effective and relentless knight of justice in her high heels.

    Topic: How the actions of big and immoral company effect to normal peoples and how to defend what you love against that huge monster and it's dark lawyer armies.
     
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  7. isaac223

    isaac223 Active Member

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    Thank you! You both offered valuable input that has made me take a step back and look at certain plot-points a different way. While unintentionally, these are factors of boredom that I do end up looking at in the revelations concerned with two key characters. But digging a little deeper, I realized I can do a little more with them in explicit relation to the theme at hand.

    Oh absolutely! I suppose despite being an underlying theme, it isn't the "point" of the story. In the end, it is ultimately just a whodunit mystery through-and-through, and I would hope it could be appreciated as such as well as for the exploration of the themes.

    Thank you for this! I'm unsure if I was misusing the term "theme" or not, but this does help me contextualize these aspects of narrative a bit better.
     
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  8. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    You'll probably never find a hole in your theme, because it is primarily a label to which you develop you plot, and if you misalign or gap the plot development you will have a hole that your editor will make you fix.
     
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