Tuesday, 11 September 2012

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The Importance of Theme in Story Writing

I'll be honest. In the past few weeks I've been suffering with a serious case of writer's block. I planned out this series of books and wrote about ten thousand words before I came down with it.

I had some ideas, not great ones or bad ones, but some ideas. I wrote a few stories for my Burrst. It was getting anything longer than a few hundred words and worthwhile down on paper, or Word, that was the problem. The more I couldn't write, the more agitated I got, the more agitated I got, the less I could write. Then...

I read this free ebook by Francis Poretto. In the space of a few days I planned a story and I've written five thousand words, and all of them have meaning and a purpose. All because of one thing: Theme.

Honestly, I'd suggest you download his book. Nothing I say about theme will be as informative as his words but I can tell you that it is so important. More important than I'd ever realised. I'd never had theme before, just a plot and characters and setting. A beginning middle and end. That's like just having butter, ham and cheese. The theme is the bread to keep it all together, to give it purpose and to vastly improve it. You can't have a sandwich without bread, you can't have a story without theme.

When you know what message you're trying to send out to your readers, every word and action and peice of dialogue suddenly gets a whole new meaning. Everything is connected by more than 'just because'.

Theme can be anything. It can be a moral message, like "play with fire and you're going to get burned" or "what goes around comes around" or it can be a 'rule' such as "lies will always be punished" or it can be a feeling, like "love conquers all" or "courage is always rewarded". Whatever you want it to be. It can be a moral message, a political message, a spiritual message, a belief you hold dear. Or you can choose something more ambiguous so the reader can decide their own version of what they think your theme is.

For the story I'm currently writing, the theme is "overcoming fears/courage" - so all the characters have some fear they will overcome by the end of the story, especially the main character.

The more I write, the more I'm realising the need for things I once thought weren't neccessary at all. Of course if I find any more I'll share them with you!

What do you think the most important aspect of a story is?

Let me know!