Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Theme Me Up, Scotty.


Today I tackle this month's Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog question from Sarah:

Does each book/story you write have an overarching theme, and if so, do you think of it ahead of time or discover it after?


What a great question. With my writing recently, I've found that I do have a theme in mind when I start outlining my story. With my last novel, it was this:


Super-survivalism may protect your body, but won't protect a fragile heart.


In my most recent WIP, it's this:


Physical perfection/imperfection is nothing compared to a strong mind.


(Hmm, I'm starting to see a theme within my themes.)

I may not have been able to say it with clarity when I started planning the books, but it didn't take long before the overarching idea was obvious.


How about you? I'd love to hear how you answer the question!

Don't forget to check out Laura's post last week if you missed it, and stay tuned for Sarah and Deb's post in the coming weeks!

40 comments:

mooderino said...

The thing I seem to be drawn to is the difference between what a person thinks they stand for, and what happens when they're put to the test. Sometimes it's plain old hypocrisy, but sometimes it's just about how we prefer to see ourselves.

mood
Moody Writing

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

Okay, I'm totally going to steal that post title. Just so you know.

Sarah said...

Those are fantastic themes, Lydia--and I would expect something that clear and concise from you! But when you put them like that, it definitely makes me want to read your books!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I figure out my theme ahead of time too, though sometimes it changes during the outline to something stronger. I never start my first draft without knowing what it will be, though.

Anne Gallagher said...

Truly, what are you talking about? You mean we have to have THEMES in our books?

Seriously, my first book's theme was literally don't judge a book by its cover.

My second book was The past isn't always what we think it is.

Third -- Sometimes we have to do what's right, even though it's wrong.

Laura Pauling said...

All my themes end up being about family and relationships and survival. Usually anyway. And those are the stories I love best too.

Chris Phillips said...

I tend to have some idea before.

B.E. Sanderson said...

Sometimes I start out with a theme in mind, but by the time I finish writing, I find myself so far from what I set out to do that the original theme got lost and another one took its place.

Terri Tiffany said...

Yes, I try to have a theme for each book--didn't the first few and now I can see the need to have one ahead of time.

Tara said...

Great themes - especially the second!

Matthew MacNish said...

I only have the one novel to go off of, but I definitely thought of the theme beforehand. I can't talk about it online though, because it's a part of a certain plot twist.

Carolyn Abiad said...

I usually have a theme when I'm outlining, but as I write, the idea gets polished and sometimes morphs into something else.

Melody Valadez said...

Haha, I thought you were going to talk about the Star Trek theme, as in, "to boldly go where no man has gone before." And the accompanying song. :)

The theme for my current MS is 'forgiveness,' specifically looking at the struggle with forgiving oneself...and forgiving someone else. That's not quite as well-worded as yours, though. And I didn't realize this theme until after I'd started the story-planning. :)

Linda Gray said...

Those are great themes, Lydia, clear and powerful. Mine tend to be all about finding out our real fears while we're facing down their doppelgangers.

Heather said...

I never thought of it as a theme but I do keep the 'heart' of my novel in mind while I write. It's pretty much the same thing from the way you describe it!

Carol Riggs said...

Hey, your themes sound interesting. I sorta find my own themes after the fact, although I suppose sometimes I develop them as I go, once I figure out what's going on. ;o) I guess I have themes of appearance vs who you really are inside, the importance of friendships, and developing strength of character.

Happy Wednesday, Lydia!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Loved both your themes. I find my themes as the story progresses, though the theme is all the time buzzing around inside my head, it emerges closer to the end, when I have tied up all the lose ends.

Emily Rose said...

I usually just start with an idea, never really a theme. You have great themes though!

Talli Roland said...

I usually need to identify what my character will learn over the course of their journey!

Erin Cole said...

Themes are tricky, and I think it's difficult for many writers to see the theme in their WIP if they haven't crafted the story around one in the beginning. I also think stories mean different things to different people and so there can be multiple themes too.

My last theme for a short story I did was this: Answers take time, but this gives us more time to really evaluate and understand the question. That came to me in the middle of writing the story and I ran with it!

Ru said...

I think it was Stephen King who wrote in his memoir that he never drafted with a theme in mind, but when he went back to read through, he'd find it and then emphasize it. I think that's a good system, there are too many books out there that hit the reader over the head with their theme.

Bathwater said...

Ru has a good point you don't want to ruin a story with a theme but a reader might feel cheated or the ending will seem to fall apart if it doesn't keep with a theme.

It might not be what the reader wants the theme to be. Instead of "love conquers all" it could be "two people from different world can not be together".

It's like a debate you propose the topic "theme" and back it with your words.

emy shin said...

Ooh, I really like your themes. Mine often comes when I am part-way into the novel, and it's born out of my MC's internal conflict.

Hema P. said...

Yes, I would say there definitely needs to be an overall theme for every WIP, even if the writer does not outline every last detail. Otherwise, it gets difficult from keeping each character from taking over and trying to pull the story in a direction that he/she sees fit that may or may not serve the story's purpose :).

Nas Dean said...

Hi Lydia,

With me it works like this, I decide on a theme, then build my characters around that theme and then the characters sometimes change the theme as they go along with their own conflicts!

Jennifer Hillier said...

Cool question! And yep, I've noticed that my books definitely have a theme - they're all about people who aren't who you think they are. And how we all have dual natures - our public side, and our public side, and the consequences of exposing those private aspects to everybody else.

Krispy said...

I don't usually write with one in mind. They just sort of come out of the writing. I'd totally over-think the writing if I knew I wanted to write to a certain theme, so I prefer to let it just come organically. :)

Solvang Sherrie said...

I don't start with a theme in mind, but it usually comes out as I write, without me even realizing it sometimes. It's kind of cool to go back and read that first draft and see how it snuck in there :)

Connie said...

Sometimes I have a theme in mind when I start and other times they evolve. What always amazes me though is how the symbols and over-arching metaphors appear without planning. How does that happen? One of the great joys of writing for me.

Giles Hash said...

Themes don't get added to my stories on purpose, mostly because I'm not good at making them appear natural if I force them into a story. But I have had a couple of themes in my most recent books. Namely, be proud of who you are, stand up for what you believe... cliches that I don't really plan on emphasizing.

Sailor said...

My theme? Just travel!

lbdiamond said...

I love these themes!

It's amazing how themes come out as the creative process develops.

Lisa Potts said...

It usually takes me until nearly the end of my story before I can see the underlying theme.

Jai Joshi said...

Yes, I always know what I want to say with my story before I write the story itself. My latest suspense is about how letting our inner corruptions control us will destroy our peace and joy.

Jai

Jonene Ficklin said...

Your themes sound very intriguing! I've done it both ways. For me, I think it works best to just get the book going, then decide what the theme is after. The, I go back and strengthen it.

Ghenet Myrthil said...

I didn't have a theme in mind when I started writing my WIP but I've since figured it out. I think it's good to have a line that gets to the heart of your story. It helps me remember what my story is really about.

Karen Lange said...

This is a good question. I'm still working on this for my WIP. Hmm, it could go one or two ways. Have to give this some thought. Thanks for the nudge! :)

Susan Fields said...

I definitely don't have a theme in mind when I start a new ms, but I can usually pick it out when all is said and done. Great post!

M Pax said...

I tend to have a theme of my characters having to overcome being dealt a crap hand. I didn't realize I had a theme either until a friend pointed it out. Oh. :D

Olga said...

I think there is a relationship between physical strength and inner strength. In case both are developed at the same time.

 
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