Thursday, September 4, 2008

To theme or not to theme . . .

It's not really a question of 'can I theme or not'. Because the bottom line for writers is they must possess an ability to craft their words around theme.

I've posted before that themes and I don't get along, see eye-to-eye, hey, we don't normally exist on the same planet. I scandalously use my critique partners, my English Liter-major collegiate daughter, even my two kids still at home to grasp the concept of theme and shove it one more time -- forcefully -- into my brain.

Image my delight, okay, it was more like downright squeals of excitement when I discovered while teaching (4th grade) today, an insider's tip for building theme.

Three simple ideas, really!

FIRST LEARNED LESSON -- The theme is the author's statement. Not an explanation that really works for me since I don't think of my writing as 'statement' oriented. However, and it was the perfect however when I read further and found, 'Theme is the lesson (or lessons) on life the author is trying to show'. That was a simple enough description even my brain could understand.

So, I started a list:
overcoming a challenge
courage
survival
friendship

then the movie idea struck:
love conquers all -- The Count of Monte Cristo
life goes on -- Steel Magnolias
valuing one's self-worth -- Where the Heart is
acceptance -- I, Robot
individuality -- V for Vendetta (also huge theme in The Fountainhead)
the power of truth to conquer lies -- Serenity

Other themes for you? Don't skip ahead to the comments section yet, but be sure to stop there before leaving my blog. Remember, I'm theme-challenged so all the themes you can share will help.

SECOND LEARNED LESSON -- The theme can be a moral. Examples given were: 'look before you leap', and 'haste makes waste'. Hardly morals that I would use to titillate readers in a romantic suspense novel, but the point was well made.

My elementary experience lead to thoughts of Disney movies. Here was a virtual kaleidoscope of moral teachings.

I thought of:
'Don't judge the Ogre by his cover' from Shrek.
'Just keep swimming' from Finding Nemo.
'Under the skin/fur, everyone is the same' or 'family is more than blood' from Ice Age.

Before you say I missed it with themes on these movies, consider that many books and movies will have more than one theme.

Can you think of other 'Disney' or children's book morals? Share in the comments section.

THIRD LEARNED LESSON -- is to turn from a statement and form the question:
'The lesson I want my readers to learn from this book is . . .'

Do you have additional questions that help cement the theme of your book? Please share.

4th grade is turning out to be a very good year for me -- even if it is the second go round.

It's cooling off a bit here in Texas, meaning we're seeing lower nineties instead of the high version. That means it almost back porch time again. I've been sweeping -- it hasn't rained in weeks and the dirt is in epidemic proportions -- and even managed to scrub down the BBQ grill for another go round. Do stop in again.

Until later
~Sandra

4 comments:

Marilyn Brant said...

I always gravitate toward themes about learning to listen to your own voice or gaining a sense of personal courage--probably why I loved reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love so much :).

Pam said...

Wow, my brain is way too tired to comment intelligently on this, but you've given me some fabulous things to think about.

Wonderful, wonderful post!!!

Sue L said...

Another wonderful post, I agree.

I find myself drawn to more deeply themed books. I like books that are fun on the first read, but start tugging on you as you go and stay with you long after the book is finished.

Katie Reus said...

Great post! I loved Finding Nemo, and you're right, so many books and movies have more than one theme. I'm taken by themes involving accepting oneself, and being an individual, etc. :)

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