Saturday, January 28, 2006

Playing with themes

The concept that Zette covered in the third assignment (due a week ago) was theme. I always find themes hard. I spent hours that week sifting through the bits of story idea I'd come up with in order to condense the essence into its theme. Eventually I decided that the theme of my new novel, Puppet Prince, is Tenacity: To achieve your destiny, hang onto your dreams against all odds. I then decided on a secondary theme, Compassion: The journey from selfishness to compassion results in strong leadership. Some of the other contenders at the time were destiny, purpose, free will, manipulation, choice, and wisdom.

Assignment four, due today, focuses in on the main character's goals and the conflicts that arise to keep him from simply reaching out and grabbing the goal. I've spent hours on this concept as well. It simply isn't gelling. After beating my head against the proverbial brick wall (many hours, I won't bore you...) I cast my gaze back to assignment three and the theme.

A little light came on.

I had picked the wrong theme.

The new theme is COMPROMISE: Treading the destined path through life may require a careful dance. Basically, we'd like to see life in black and white. Either something is right or it's wrong. As a Christian, I believe that is true in many areas, but the older I get, the more I appreciate the various shades of gray in relation to some issues. In an ideal, perfect, sin-free world, things would be simpler.

For the main character of Puppet Prince, Jhonal, this is equally true. He cannot simply choose the best path. What is best in one way is not best in another way. He needs to go through this story deciding on how much compromise he will be willing to sustain in order to negotiate the best deal for himself and for his people.

Already the goals and conflicts are sliding into place.

Why is choosing a theme important before you ever start writing? Do you have to do it this way? Of course not. Though I must admit I've been much more aware of themes since taking this 2 year novel course the first time two years ago. If you are building a building, whether it is a small storage shed or a mansion, you need a suitable foundation. The wrong theme is like building a great foundation, and then raising the building next to it, or across the yard. All I have done today is stuck a large hook in my theme and dragged it underneath the walls that are starting to go up. Everything should be much more secure now.

Here's hoping.


Jean said...

What a great analogy!

Maripat said...

I noticed that too, Val. I think that's why conflicts came easy for me was because you helped me nail the theme right off.

Great essay.


haro said...

Val, great, great food for thought. You have shed the light even more on my own struggles this week! Now there is a light at the end of the tunnel...