Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Way We Are: Theme

So we all have a main theme in whatever it is we're writing, right? (Nod your head yes. Chances are you have one even if you haven't finely honed what it is, or even figured out what it is.) Just to make sure we're all on the same page, though, Larry Brooks is going to help us out. On his blog, he defines theme as this:

Theme is how a story touches you. What and how it causes you to think about. How the story mirrors and/or comments upon real life. Theme says something worth saying, even when it’s obvious.

“Love is complicated,” for example. Obvious, but worth saying over and over, and the fodder for an eternity of stories in all genres.

Theme is not concept. Concept is what the story is about dramatically.

Theme resides outside of the story, because it remains when the story is over. Theme is truth, theme is belief, theme is consequence and meaning and importance.

Unlike concept and character and structure, you can actually stumble upon an effective theme without giving it a whole lot of literary thought. It’s almost impossible to write a story about human beings squaring off with problems without a theme emerging on some level.

Since theme is every bit as fascinating as concept is, I want to know what yours is! 

In TTBB, I kind of have two that are a little bit separate, but work together. The first is work with your strengths! I mean, seriously-- are you going to accomplish great things if you focus on your greatest weakness, just because it seems to be everyone else's strength?

The second is a quote I ran across that I love: "There are things for each of you to do that no one else can do as well as you. If you do not prepare to do them, they will not be done." (H. Burke Peterson)

Now lets hear yours!



P.S. Thanks so much to Julie Daines at A Writer's Compendium for the Kreative Blogger Award!

38 comments:

Steph Sessa said...

My theme is acceptance, which I think is really important nowadays with all the bullying that goes on. Even though my story takes place in a magical realm, I think acceptance still resonates with everyone.

Mara Rae said...

Hmmm...I've never written them down before, but I guess my themes are keeping your heart open even when it's been broken a dozen times, and learning to love and accept yourself, even if you're undead :D

Connie B. Dowell said...

Great themes!

My strongest themes are that nobody's perfect--even parents--and that's okay and also loyalty to family and friends.

Eve said...

Oh this was great. My themes are about keeping going when you feel like your world has crumbled around you, finding yourself, and revenge. Wow I've never thought about that before, sure I have more I just can't think of right this second :)

Melanie Fowler said...

Love the quotes Peggy. I don't exactly know what to do about mine, there are so many ways that I could go.

Stacy Henrie said...

My current theme is about having hope even when things look blackest and having the courage to stand up to help others.

Writer Pat Newcombe said...

It is sometimes hard to think about themes but I love your quote - so apt. And we really should work with what we're good at!

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

Doesn't it sometimes seem like different readers can pull different themes from the same novel? I think this is because theme is how a story touches a reader, which is sure to vary.

Z said...

This is an interesting topic. I HAVE themes, I'm sure of it...but they're still forming themselves in my brain and in my ms. I'm pretty sure that one of them is similar to what you and other comment-ers have said--endurance is really, really hard, but you have to do it. You HAVE to keep going. No matter what.

Leigh Ann said...

Guuuuh. "What touches you about a story." is SUCH a perfect way to describe it.

My theme for MS #2 was "Even if things don't turn out the way you thought they always wanted them to, they might still work out - and maybe even better." Love it.

My theme for MS #3 is - "Never underestimate your importance. You could be the one to lead a revolution, and your existence and actions could make all the difference in the world."

Guuuuuh. *dies from the love*

Great post. Thanks Peggy!

Leigh Ann said...

Also - I'm sorry to leave a second comment , but I had to say this - Mara Rae, you are HILARIOUS. "Even if you're undead." *snort*

Krista said...

My theme is over coming events in your life and becoming the person you are meant to be. Even if its not the person you thought you wanted to be.

Shallee said...

Theme is something I think about a lot, and I LOVE the way Larry Brooks talks about it.

My theme in my current book is that while your past shapes you as a person, it is your choices that determine who you are. I have a few other themes that wander through, but that's the main one.

S.P. Bowers said...

I think my theme is trust. Learning to trust people even though there's a possibility we can get hurt. And opening ourselves up for pain because then we can also feel joy.

Annalisa Crawford said...

I always have trouble defining the themes in my work. I'd rather not have to think about it, but then publishers ask me!

Your post has helped a little, but I'm still not sure how to apply it to my WIP.

Peggy Eddleman said...

Oh my goodness! You guys' themes are giving me chills! I love them! It's so different hearing what everyone's theme is, since it isn't plot specific or genre specific or age specific. It's more universal humanness specific.

And Mara, the ending of yours just about killed me, too! LOVE.

Cynthia-- I think that's the beauty of theme! As long as you're not too heavy handed in your theme, it can be interpreted so many different ways. That's half of what makes it so fascinating!

prerna pickett said...

I'm having a hard time figuring out my theme. I gues it's a coming of age, accepting the tides of change sort of theme.

LindaK said...

My theme is tragedy in its many forms and new beginnings. (Mmm - sounds so cheery.)

Angela Brown said...

Theme. Wow. I've thought about this before and formed something in my head, but putting it to words seems a little different. I'd say the theme of my WiP would be "Discoveries are truths unearthed and strengths unfolded."

It's amazing what a character finds out about themselves when put into interesting predicaments.

Carrie Butler said...

One of the underlying themes of STRENGTH is the importance of taking a chance--you know, a chance on befriending an outcast, on falling in love, on fighting for what you believe in, etc. :)

Jessie Humphries said...

THis is tough, to actually formulate a theme in clear, concise terms! Thanks Professor Eddleman :) I guess one of my themes is that our legal system may have flaws, but it is our responsibility to make it better.

Imogen said...

Honestly? I haven't found my theme yet, though at the moment it seems to be leaning towards a acceptance/understanding, kind of thing. It's a bit too early to tell though.

Laura said...

Eerm... for the rather grim bit of fantasy I've been working on, I'd have to say, 'revenge'!
Lx

Ruth Josse said...

You're stronger than you think you are and you can do hard things when it comes down to it.

Trisha said...

Hmm, some of my novels have a "triumphing over adversity" theme...I guess? Others definitely have "love is complicated". One in particular has a "find your inner strength & everything else will follow" theme.

Crack You Whip said...

I loved reading everyone's themes as much as reading the post itself!

I don't believe I have a theme, but if I do, I know it's a good one.

Great post!

Alicia@ eco friendly homemaking said...

This is such an interesting post! I agree I really like the quotes.

Erin Shakespear said...

Love the quote.

The theme for my fantasy MG is things aren't always as they seem. Also...a sprinkling of don't take the easy route out. Oh....and maybe a dash of you just gotta believe in yourself.

Hmmmm, maybe...possibly?....too many themes...

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Wow...great post, Julie!

I sat thinking about a handful of my manuscripts...they are all about overcoming something, be it a desire, grief, a goal, a situation....

Thanks for the super post!

Kelley said...

My theme is trying to find the good in the world. No matter how difficult it might be to see.

As always, love your posts! :)

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I hope that quote you used is true. I hope that there is something in my life I can do that is better than what anyone else can do. I just need to find out what it is.

Laura Pauling said...

I never understood theme when I was starting out but I love stories that have a strong theme, that's what keeps me coming back.

Sarah Pearson said...

Now I'm worried. I have no idea what the theme for this story is :-(

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

This is a very thought-provoking post, Peggy. The distinction between theme and concept is a little bit tricky, and I think I tend, in general, to have way more understanding of concept than theme. You have caused me to think about what the themes are in my current WIPs which promises to be painful :)

Clarissa Draper said...

Wow, I don't often think about theme but I think in my current manuscript, it's about growth for one character and consequences for another. I'm going to have to give more thought to theme in the future.

Beth said...

The theme of my second novel was honesty.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Love that quote. So much truth there. I hope hope I can deal with my weaknesses and turn them into strengths.

TerryLynnJohnson said...

this was great reading through everyone's comments and what they feel their theme is. Awesome idea for a post. And I think so important for a novel to make an impression.
The story I'm working on has a theme about finding your inner strength.