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Thinking of themes.

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Shasjas, Jan 6, 2012.

  1. Shasjas

    Shasjas Scribe

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    "A theme is a broad idea, message, or moral of a story. The message may be about life, society, or human nature. Themes often explore timeless and universal ideas and are almost always implied rather than stated explicitly."

    So I'm trying to think of some themes that can run through my story. But its difficult to think of them.
    Do you have any ideas that can help me? How do you think up themes? do you even bother, or do you just let them appear as you write?

    Ideas ive had so far:
    Greed, purpose of life, being yourself.
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2012
  2. sashamerideth

    sashamerideth Maester

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    I started with a theme, but trying to stick to it was proving limiting. I feel that discovering themes and such are best left to liberal arts majors.
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2012
  3. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

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    I don't think about theme until the story is over. Then I reread and see if a theme develops (or sometimes I recognize it as I write). If one exists, I try to bring it out and tie it together more in my edits. I found to my surprise that this is exactly what Stephen King does.

    Often, themes do pop up, though. And even if you write something without any theme in mind, you'd be surprised how often people will ascribe themes to it. You can't always predict reader interpretation.
     
  4. mythique890

    mythique890 Sage

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    I don't write with themes in mind, but I don't think any writer can help but tell a story that reflects their core beliefs. That could result in unintended themes.
     
  5. Ice Spider

    Ice Spider Scribe

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    I find themes just tend to appear when I'm writing. It's hard to help it. For one, your values tend to come out in everything you do. Why is your protagonist worth rooting for? More importantly, you can usually find a theme in stories when you look into what is causing the basic conflict. Unless you are writing a totally plot-centered tale driven solely by Macguffins (which probably wouldn't be that interesting anyway), there has to be some human motivation. What sort of emotion/action causes it, or occurs as a result of it? Is it jealousy? Lust for power? Indecision? Neglect? Those could all be themes. A story without themes would be a story without any conflict...in other words, it wouldn't be a story.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2012
  6. Shasjas

    Shasjas Scribe

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    Thats really helpful thank you. so instead of thinking of themes, and then building the characters, i should build the characters and see what themes come through them?
     
  7. sashamerideth

    sashamerideth Maester

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    I am curious as to why you are so strongly concerned about a theme
     
  8. Kaellpae

    Kaellpae Inkling

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    I've never read a story and then broke it down to what themes are in it. The exception would have to be anything done in English class, but when I write I worry more about character and plot than what the story is supposed to mean.
    As stated before, your (or your characters) beliefs will show through, and if they're a central character then I'm sure it'll shine through.
     
  9. Ice Spider

    Ice Spider Scribe

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    Exactly. :) You could start with the theme and invent a story to house that theme if you wanted to, but there's a greater change of the story and characters being too convoluted, since they were just created to fit the theme. Also, it may look like you are an Author Making A Point, which contemporary readers don't like very much. People don't like being preached to (even though that is the farthest thing from your intent). Just create a story, and the themes will come through. :)
     
  10. Xanados

    Xanados Maester

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    Clearly a theme should come naturally when you write. If you have to ask what themes to use, well, you aren't writing properly. It's the same with anyone who asks for ideas. It's preposterous. You're a writer, you should be able to tap in to that well of arcane power and use it to conjure new ideas...
     
  11. Phayes

    Phayes Dreamer

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    Themes appear in a couple of ways throughout my writing. Often when I'm "discovery" writing, they just pop in, like others have already mention. Sort of a natural progression to the story bares the bones of a theme. i realize that this isn't necessarily helpful to the "planning" or extensively "outlining" sort of writer. Themes that I have used when I'm deliberately planning my story often come from upbringing. The climax situations that have come about in my own life-story are often brought about by very acute and unexpected themes. This is how I apply themes as well. I don't show all my cards to the reader, and I let the theme itself become an underdog.

    Hope that bit of rambling mess helps!
     
  12. Shasjas

    Shasjas Scribe

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    Well I wouldn't call myself a writer just yet, I'm simply a naive teenager with creative urges. But when I do something I want to do it to the best of my abilities, so I search around for tips, tutorials and techniques. A lot of these things say a good story has a theme that resonates within the reader even after the story.

    Also, I don't see the problem with asking for ideas. The idea behind asking for ideas (heheh) is that hearing other peoples ideas helps you think of your own. You probably don't end up using other people ideas, but discussing them helps you create and develop your own.
     
  13. sashamerideth

    sashamerideth Maester

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    Take a look at the basic story types, hero's journey, find the macguffin, coming of age... These are some of the plot archetypes.

    So far, by way of themes, I have a fight for equality, a fall to "evil", and survival as themes.
     
  14. Voldermort

    Voldermort Guest

    There is only one theme - freedom.

    But that has many forms.

    You are freeing yourself from the monster. Which can be literal (Sauron in LOTR) or metaphoric (such as a worry or a fear or a restriction).
     
  15. sashamerideth

    sashamerideth Maester

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    Sounds like Scientology to me, not something I want to push in my stories. I also disagree with your other points.

    In some of the stories I like, the theme is that there is no real freedom to be had. We are bound by our choices and the choices of others. If you look hard enough at any story, you can find any theme you want. People have been doing it for hundreds of years with the Bible, interpreting it to suit whatever agenda they want. It doesn't surprise me to see it done with LOTR as well.
     
  16. Taytortots

    Taytortots Minstrel

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    Well, I don't start writing with a theme, but once I start writing I have a feel for what the theme is and where it's going, and proceed from there. I think different styles are for different writers, choose what feels right.
    Finding themes for me, is sort of like they were always there, I was just unaware of them. I think most writers write with a progression of story and main characters that can be related to a theme. Take being yourself as an example. These things are character driven. If you have your character being who they are/ and doing what they think is right or not following the beaten path, well, the theme is already there.
    That may not have made sense to anyone else, but I hope this helped. Good luck.
     
  17. Like pretty much everyone else here, I don't start writing with a message to give or a theme. If I were you, I would start writing and weave in those elements you're considering, greed, being yourself, and the purpose of life, as features in your story, as opposed to letting them tie you down. If I look at my book and think about what the theme is I'm left scratching my head. If I think about what the elements are I would say conspiracy, self-dought, struggle, and change. I know thats a bit vague, but just let it morph.
     
  18. Graham Irwin

    Graham Irwin Sage

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    Themes obvious to me.

    I totally agree.

    Personally, I feel that there is no reason for a character or a plot thread to exist in a story unless they aid in what you are trying to communicate as a writer. Do you want to speak of war? Or love? Death? Orgies? Even it it's elven fashion, your book should be about something. Then, you give your topic a thrust. This is where you as the author comes into play. Is your story about a war? A romance? A quest for immortality? Say you choose war. Now, ask yourself what questions or ideas you personally have about your topic. Example Question: Is war always a good thing, or can it have serious repercussions? Okay, next, say you decided that war was a necessary human instinct. Your characters and plots lines would then be created in support of a story about war that has as one of its themes the necessity of war. For example, you have a leader on one side of a war that refuses to fight, while their adversary knows no compassion and is relentless in their destruction. Their characters become sides of a discussion you are facilitating for your readers. A third general who is initially war-like and then has a crises of conscience and becomes a pacifist would add another layer of depth to the story's "conversation." Obviously, this is all only one rough example. Ideally, a book should have many contrasting ideas set against each other to help the author convey their idea.

    At the same time, you could just tell a story with a bunch of random characters and plots that you like that have nothing to do with anything. That's fine too!
    :cool:
     
  19. Shasjas

    Shasjas Scribe

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    Thanks a lot for your replies everyone, they are all really helping me.
     
  20. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

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    For me a theme more seems to flow from the story being told than starting out with a theme and trying to fit a story into it.
     
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