Theme—Day 35; the summary

I suppose I should wrap up this discussion. I’d like, for my own benefit, to pull together what I believe and what I’ve learned about theme.

  • theme is the recurring or pervasive idea in a novel
  • like other elements in a novel, theme should be crafted
  • the beginning place in crafting theme is for the author to delve into what he is passionate about, not settling for the obvious
  • a well-crafted theme is delicately woven into the story and may only appear on the underside, though its influence holds the characters and plot together
  • this delicate weaving requires a restrained hand: the recurring ideas cannot be in excess or they will make the prose seem heavy-handed
  • the ideas espoused should not come from the mouth of the author
  • when characters dialogue about theme, they should use subtle references rather than overt
  • “actions speak louder than words”
  • theme is most powerfully shown when the protagonist is faced with a moral dilemma during the climax of the story
  • symbols are tools for crafting theme
  • the most powerful themes are timeless
  • and universal—they speak to the condition of mankind across the barriers of race, culture, gender, socio-economic differences
  • It could be I will think of other things and add to this list, but this is what stands out today.

    Above all else, I do not want to leave theme up to chance in my writing. I do not want to tack it on or patch it in as I revise. Not that I won’t need to revise or rework it as I do any other element.

    But I want to produce thought-provoking fiction that engages the mind as well as the emotions, and I believe that requires intention. First I must think deeply about the ideas I want to communicate, then think deeply about how to craft my story to express those ideas.

    That, at least, is my aim.

    Published in: on May 11, 2006 at 12:58 pm  Comments (4)  
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