Are you glass-half-empty kind of gal and want the world to realize that life is truly and monumentally unfair?
Or are you all pixie-dust and starlight and want to show folks that, in the end, everything comes out all right?
Just what is the point of your stories? What’s the overall theme?
For many of us, theme isn’t something we think about when we write. I know a few authors who adamantly say they have no theme and they are just trying to write a good yarn. But the fact is, most stories do have an over-arching theme. Writers may not be aware of it, but it is there. It’s like personality. You are just gonna view and react to things a certain way based on your personality. In my line of thinking, each story has a unique theme or personality that shines through and is what sticks with me long after reading a book.
For instance, consider the Map of Time by Felix Palma (review here). Because Mr. Palma’s writing style left me frustrated, I decided not to continue with his series, though I do recommend you try out his tome. He’s got some poignant moments in the book that shouldn’t be missed and the three connected stories presented in the Map of Time weave a theme of natural, even cosmic, capriciousness that is a joy to discover.
But, as writers, should we really be concerned about theme while we are just struggling to make our prose readable?
Let’s see what Pixar’s 22 storytelling rules has to say about it. Here’s #3:
Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now re-write.
To be honest, I don’t agree with this rule. For writer’s who don’t write from an outline, this may be true. But not for me. Theme is paramount to all my stories. It is the seed from which they grow. And the thread that pulls me to the end. Without theme, there’s no point in me writing. If I didn’t have a theme to hang my story on, my words would just pile in a discarded heap in the closet, banished forever.
(Gosh, so dramatic, eh?)
Though I will concede that the theme to a story can shift while writing and that it might not shine through until after the fifth or sixth re-write, but I do strive to see it all the way through my writing process.
What about you? Do you write with a theme in mind or just wing it?