Writing Exercise: Theme

Photo by Alexander Jawfox on Unsplash

I’m going to be honest with you. I really don’t understand “theme”. Theme is Big Literary Discussion, and I hated that part of high school English. I read to enjoy and escape, not figure out if the story was about the “futility of purpose” or “limitations of self-destruction.” To me, and my autistic-spectrum mind, the blue curtains were just blue. As an developmental editor, only once have I come back to an author and said “this is your theme” … and we needed that to pull together a story going off track. The writer hadn’t even known, but as soon as I said it (well, meandered through writing an email trying to nail the developmental issue until it hit me), he was like “exactly” … and hurried off our message-chat to fix the problem.

Sometimes my book club talks about themes, and I try to contribute. Mostly I restock my plate with the snacks everyone brought around that time.

Misty Massey wrote a Magical Words post on October 4, 2011 entitled “What Does It All Mean” discussing theme. Commentors included AJ Hartley and pea_faerie, both of whom are English college professors with doctorates – but they are also writers, so they know how to make discussion on theme interesting. (URL is: http://www.magicalwords.net/misty-massey/what-does-it-all-mean/)

For the most part for me, genre writing is about entertaining. To be entertaining, the reader needs to be engaged. Engagement happens when more than just balloons and explosions are happening, when there is meaning buried between the words even if the reader doesn’t see it, their hind-brain does. And that meaning often is a theme.

“People are equal.” “People are not equal.” “Be kind.” “Be forceful.” “Think of others first.” “Self-care before other care.” “Health is wasted on the youth.” “Old age makes one stagnant.”

All that wonderful jumbled mess that is life.

WRITING EXERCISE: Review you present work-in-progress (WIP) to see if you have any themes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *