Monday, April 4, 2011

Some Personal Theory

So, you want to write a book (a story) that means something.  You want those deep, thought-provoking themes to reveal to the reader something about their own lives and hopefully encourage them to change for the better.

Then you get to writing class, and they tell you can't write toward theme because you will have a bad story.  They say you have to let the story to the leading and let the characters speak for themselves.

You are stubborn and try to write toward theme anyway.  You fail.  You realize that you have to listen to your teacher.

You try writing for yourself, but you are a theme person.  That is just how you are as a writer.  And you are trying as hard as you can to silence the part of your writerly self that wants to inject theme into every emotional conversation between two characters.  Symbolism!  Metaphor!  They are all dying to smear their faces on the page.  You do your best to hold them off, but bits of them creep in and get into the writing anyway.

Now, you're faced with your horribly written draft that is half a weak story that got shoved around by metaphors and themes and ideas and absolutes and ideals and half a poor soap box speech that has these weird characters with their own ideas (that probably and somehow conflict with the person that created them) getting in the way.

What do you do?

My first idea: Embed your ideals into the plot points.  Sure, let your characters do their own thing and hold the theme down.  But during the drafting part, you have to go through your draft and see what themes are popping out from the characters themselves.  If you don't like them, well, you're the author.  Get rid of them.  But the ones you do like, work with them.  They are there already.  But make sure that you make realizations or ideals presented or something like that a plot point.  They have to be integral to the plot.  If you could take them out and the plot would not have to change a bit, that won't work.  Your theme has to be so integral to the plot that it is a part of the characters lives.

Thats just an idea.  I don't have any experience really to back it up.  Ron Carlson, whom I studied story writing under for a year, would probably laugh at this blog post.  Either for my stupidity or for my simplification of something that he has been trying to teach me all along.