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Posts Tagged ‘Theme’

Theme is a topic, idea or motif that is central to a story. I believe theme is something that evolves organically in our fiction as characters move through their particular conflict and respond to it. As writers, we have to be careful not to manipulate a theme to convey our values. Our heart-theme will emerge if we write honestly.

Why do we write what we write, and how do we incorporate our values into our stories without being conspicuous? I would suggest it takes practice in releasing theme, and allowing the Lord to bring out truths in our stories that will positively influence our readers.

Theme is also an aspect of our lives that develops as we learn and grow and mature. It comes from who we are, what our values are, and how we live them out. Sometimes other people see our life-theme better than we do.

If a theme is organic, that means it stems from our responses to circumstances in our lives.

I’ll be honest. I have trouble maintaining a smoothly-flowing passion for life. When things go well—my relationships are healthy, finances are manageable, plans seem to be following through—then I love life and it spills over into my writing. But when things go less than lovely, which is to be expected in this life, I tend to question my reasons for doing what I do. Thankfully, I know I am forgiven when I fall or fail, and my God is all about redemption and renewal.

So I’m thinking that everything I believe and do must be based on something solid and sure. James 1:17 (NKJV) says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

God does not change, nor can He be manipulated. We can lean on Him, rely on Him, depend on Him because of those invariable truths. If we base our theme on God and consider the good gifts He gives us, we should be able, with His divine help, to live at peace with whatever circumstance we find ourselves in, whether in our writing life or in our personal life.

I pray that the theme of my life, my commitment to Jesus Christ, would be organic, influencing other lives toward Him.

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What part does theme play in fiction writing and how does it come about? Do we manipulate our characters and their actions around a chosen theme or do we allow it to develop organically?

Firstly, let’s settle a question that may make this easier to understand: Are theme and premise the same thing?

For an answer, let’s look at a couple of examples from Rob Parnell’s article “Theme and Premise — What’s the Difference?

romeo and juliet* Take Romeo and Juliet. The premise is two young people from warring families fall in love. The theme is star-crossed love leads to tragedy.

           

 

 

pride and prejudice* Pride and Prejudice: the premise is that a feisty young woman needs to find a husband. The theme? Love conquers all.

 

 

 

LOTR* And my own example from Lord of the Rings: the premise is that a young hobbit finds himself in possession of a ring that can destroy the world. The theme, in my opinion, is courage and self-sacrifice for the greater good.

So our answer is that theme and premise are not the same. Premise is the situation that starts the story, what it’s all about; theme is the subject of the work, the heart of the story.

It’s a chicken and egg question. file271314537113What comes first, the story or the theme? My definitive answer is, it depends. There are relatively few original story themes, but as writers, we may not recognize at the outset that we have a particular theme in mind.

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Let me ask you a question: what’s the theme of your life? Unless you’ve recently done this exercise, you might not be able to pick it out. You’ll need to go back and consider who you are and what you’ve accomplished, how you’ve lived. In other words, you’ll need to review your story.

I think writing is similar. We need story before we can pick out a theme. The theme may be in the back of our minds, mulling around as we develop characters and motivation and conflict. It may be may be an age-old concept but it only comes through once we’ve brought it to life through the story itself.

For more on this “theme,” check out

Theme to Story http://learnedaboutwriting.blogspot.ca/2008/06/revising-novel-theme-to-story.html (by whoever used to write My Writing Life).

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