Thursday, 21 January 2010

Theme and Strategy: Part 5 - Pattern in Thought

We should always know why were telling the story were writing.

Maybe it's because we want to be rich and famous or maybe it's because we want to write literature to keep people talking for years to come. Knowing this will effect what you write and how you write it. Knowing this will help you find your theme.

The word theme may scare some but it really does help us know what path is right for our story and what is not. The idea of theme comes from what is called priority of techniques.

The major elements of storytelling is:
  • plot
  • character
  • style
  • idea
  • mood
Any one of these elements can dominate the work and that would be the novel's theme.

1) Plot as theme: this book is for action junkies and escapists. With plot as main theme, no serious attempt is made at social commentary or human condition. These books make money because it allows the readers to escape.

2) Mode as theme: the writer tries to make an emotional effect on the reader. Terror, suspense (like Hitchcock's The Birds), love, romance or comedy. With this, make sure you clearly understand the expectations of the audience before you write.

3) Style as theme: Not many stories are written with style as theme because it's more like reading poetry. The elements take a backseat to the style. The style will have a profound effect on every other element as scene through it. Like a colored lens in which everything is shot.

4) Character as theme: Often 'The Great American Novel' or 'Literary Masterpiece' is one that has a name in the title. Like David Copperfield or Anna Karenina. People like books about other people, they find it fascinating.

5) Idea as theme: The moral of the story is the theme...(fairy tales often have ideas as theme) and themes fall into 6 main categories.

  • The moral statement - the writer is often trying to preach or get across their ideas. The problem could be that the characters and plots often fall flat.
  • Human Dignity - The fight for human dignity. Ex. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
  • Social Comment - I recently read a book with this as a theme, it was called The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The author, Anne Bronte, preached about the woman's condition the whole time. She was trying to make comments on life at the time. She was often called the beginning in the woman's liberation movement.
  • Human Nature - In this category, the characters often represent universal human types.
  • Human Relations - The author is concerned with understanding who we are as people and the difficulties people have when it comes to getting along with others.
Source: Theme and Strategy by Ronald Tobias


Kimberly Franklin said...

You're right. Theme is kind of a scary word, but when you break it down that this, it's not so scary. : )

Thanks Ann!

Ann Elle Altman said...

Yeah, it's not so scary.


Unknown said...

So I don't go crazy.

(Is that a theme?)

I love your input. I'm a new follower and look forward to ramping up my writing skills. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

Warm Regards,

Denise Burks

Unknown said...

I came across your blog, and while reading instantly loved it!

Theme's can be difficult, I have noticed, but when you find out what route you take you feel unstoppable! Well at least I do, lol!


Ann Elle Altman said...

Denise, glad you liked the blog, I have checked out your site and became a follower.

Jen, Glad to hear it.


Anonymous said...

Great notes here, Ann.

'Theme' isn't a word that scares me at all it's one of my favorite parts of reading/writing.

I think I fall into the character/idea/style slot. (That style slot is a tight squeeze!)

I read you My Writing Life story. Thanks for recommending. Funny stuff! My characters don't have that much sway - except pesky Mabel. The other too are fairly quiet and will even tell me I'm doing well when I lose confidence. Mabel feels I generally write quite poorly and would make a far better novel if I gave her the lead role. She's rarely impressed - even when I follow her orders.


Anonymous said...

Forgive the typos!! Sticky keyboard. :)

Ann Elle Altman said...

Corra, glad you liked my story.

I know what you mean about sticky keys, my keyboard hates me.

I think I know what I'll be when I grow up: I'll be one of those happy old ladies in a nursing home who talks to herself constantly, doesn't recognize her own family and thinks she's more important than she is.

Ah, good times ahead!