Who the hell do I think I am? Some sort of…blogger?
The absolute nerve.
I know, I know, but… what can I say? I’m feeling inspired. Who knows how long this will last? Days? Weeks? I’ve got to ride this pony while it’s running.
So saddle up pardner; we’re going Word Rustling.
The theme of today’s blog post is, ah…
As you might recall from my last post, my friends and I recently formed a small writers group for writer things and such. The discussion in this group is almost certainly responsible for my current writing activity level, and thus these lads can be regarded as the ponies I am currently riding.
Anyway, during a chat, I outlined my current story (Pussy Alternator) and where I intend to go with it. The THEMES I was going after. After the standard compliments etc., one of the Ponies added a caution: “you want to watch the preachiness”.
A spot on comment, IMO, as encountering a message or moral or theme that an author is OBVIOUSLY pushing can put readers off of a book entirely. Then again, any story where the theme is either non-existent or essentially intangible can feel empty and unsatisfying.
So theme is important.
Theme connects your story to the human condition in a meaningful way. It’s not a moral or a lesson, necessarily, but “what it’s about” in a way that doesn’t involve character names and plot points.
– Delilah s. Dawson https://www.whimsydark.com/blog/2014/4/7/on-writing-theme
You want a clear theme, you need it in your writing, but you need to avoid bashing your reader about the face with it. So how to you do this?
Chuck on TerribleMinds.com suggests three alternative methods
- Just write the damn story and then see what theme ‘happens’
- Exercise tight control on the story and plan the theme from the outset; or
- A place in the middle, where you are aware of theme before starting to write, but still allow the story to grow organically and perhaps lead you in different directions.
*insert wise nod here*
So how do I plan to do approach it in my current work?
Chuck certainly recommends the third option, and whilst I will try to be open minded about theme flexibility, I’m actually thinking that option two may suit me better. Plan it, and force it in there with both hands and a spank-spatula.
Everyone has a spank-spatula right? It’s a thing?
What I mean is I’m going to try and lean into my themes. I’m going to try and put theme front of mind and put so much theme in there so much that it’s dripping out of the story’s pores. Theme in my first draft will be a barbwire wrapped bat to the reader’s head.
And then? After the first draft?
Well, the second draft will cut the theme out, and push the theme to the background, and generally hide the theme behind curtains and under rugs.
My hope is that the theme will act like bay leaves in a soup, or cardamom pods in a curry or cloves in…whatever you put cloves in. I don’t know, I’m not a chef. The point is, you don’t want to eat a whole one. Biting into one of those fuckers unexpectedly is awful. But you want the meal to be cooked with them in there because without them the meal is bland.
You want the flavour, BUT just the flavour.
And that means making sure you drop plenty them in while you are cooking, but remembering to take them out before serving.
See, now I’m hungry.
What do you think?
Do you have an approach to embedding theme that works or that you prefer?
Are you are up-front themer or do you let themey flavours develop mysteriously on their own?
Let me know.