Story Steps Three
As I was thinking about this next blog in my theme sequence, I realized I should probably define what theme is for the purposes of these blogs.
First, let’s look at what it’s not. It’s not the premise, it’s not the plot, and it’s not a situation. The theme pervades the story, it is the foundation upon which the other components of a story rest. It’s what the reader takes away from the story at the end.
Thus, it is often called “the take away” or “lesson learned.” It’s the message you’re trying to share with the reader. It’s your chance to express your opinions or core ideas on the meaning of life. If you look at it that way, you can see why theme is an important tool in your writing toolbox.
Theme can often be boiled down to one word such as:
In my latest release, Butterfly Bride, transformation was the theme. My goal was to create a hero who would transform from a man of his time into a man of all time. Now I didn’t beat the reader over the head with my theme. Rather, I created an English aristocrat raised in 19th century England. He wasn’t really cruel, he just reflects the mores of his gender and the times.
As I delved deeper into the story, I realized “hope” had become a sub-theme. If he couldn’t change, he would lose Hope. Quite by accident I had named his wife Hope when I created the story idea. At some point, I realized I had a sub-theme that fitted well with transformation. Sub+theme equals a subordinate theme that expands or supports the theme. I felt hope in the future supported the theme of transformation.
Obviously, there is more to theme than this blog can cover. After all, people have written whole books about it. My goal is to remind you that thinking about theme early in the story writing process can help keep you on track as the story progresses.
Finding the Theme
In the previous post, I mentioned that if you have a theme when you start writing a story, you’ll save time during the revision process. You can write scenes that enhance the theme and take advantage of opportunities to intensify the message for the reader.
If you can’t pinpoint the theme before writing, be sure and look for it when you’ve finished your story. Once you determine your theme, re-read your story and find subtle ways to highlight it.
That said, it’s still better to discover a general theme for your story as early as possible. If you’re drawing a blank, try completing this simple sentence:
I want to write a story about _____________?
Acceptance? Betrayal? Honesty?
Fill in the blank and keep your answer in mind as you create your next story.