Thursday, April 8, 2010

Reading, and More On Theme

Very long and tiring couple of days at work. I did read, and I did actually some idea generation too. But I am much to tired to put my thoughts into words.

I think I can only say, in regards to my post about theme, that heavy-handed use of theme, especially when it is morally black and white, can hurt you, even when the story is excellent. For instance, when you are writing about, say, child molesters, your theme can't be about how bad they are. It can't even be about bringing such evil to justice (even if that's the plot).

Because the reader already knows that's what you need to do. It's is a no-brainer. You don't even have to engage your heart to know it.

The way theme works in black and white situations like that, is when it explores a side-effect. For instance, the trauma of evil makes its victims weak. A good story will acknowledge this, and we'll see the protagonist struggle with it. However, a great story will raise that struggle to a theme. The plot may be about getting justice, but the story is about overcoming victimhood.

Of course there are other themes you could use - dealing with guilt or anger, for instance. A former bully seeks out bigger bullies to take down as redemption. Someone with a deep anger about something less evil may deal with it by attacking evil.

And since everyone has small fragments of these emotions, you can reflect different versions of them in all the characters in the story. When you follow a less cut and dried theme, your story will be stronger and in the end, be of more use to your readers and what they may be struggling with on some level.


Laura S. said...

Great points, especially about the differences between plot and story. Nice post!

The Daring Novelist said...

Thanks, Laura.

You know, when I was studying creative writing in college, all the teachers said to ignore theme and symbolism - and they were right up to a point. Beginning writers tend to get really heavy handed with it - especially if they are taking a literature class.

But I find that my writing really took off when I started studying screenwriting, and I got it hammered into me that theme and subtext really does set your story off to a higher level.