Friday, November 11, 2016

Theme as Glue

Theme is the glue that holds the plot together throughout the story from beginning to end. Plot is what happens, theme is why it happens. A story without a theme is just a list of what happened.

Without a theme, your reader will quickly get bored. If your boring, theme-less story even gets past an editor and that round file on the floor beside her desk. (Or if she hands it off to a first reader who, after plowing through your manuscript-without-theme until midnight, rubs her bleeding eyes and decides that she really must find a new profession, maybe something janitorial.)

Readers read in order to relate to others on an emotional level. They look for personal validation and justification. Of course, sometimes they want to be entertained, too, in a more complex way than just watching kittens play on Facebook. They want to dig into the lives of others and find that their circumstances are just as weird or hilarious as their own. Or just as sorrowful. But whatever they read, they want a point of personal reference. A fascinating plot is great, but even a fascinating plot falls apart without the underlying glue of one or more themes.

Humans entertain all kinds of psychological motivations for their behavior, some simple, some complex and intertwined with others. Story themes are the same way, some simple to define, some convoluted and difficult to pinpoint.

Here are a few possible themes.

     Alienation, loneliness                                                      Love, lust
     Betrayal                                                                           Escape
     Power                                                                              Addiction
     Loss of innocence, coming of age                                  Madness
     Fear                                                                                 Black humor, satire
     Loss                                                                                 Ignorance
     Prejudice, racism, bigotry, snobbery                               Patriotism
     Despair, desperation                                                        Survival
     Poverty                                                                             Courage
     Death                                                                                Freedom
Although it's important to have a theme your reader can relate to, your theme must appeal to you, the writer, too. It's something you love, you hate, you desire, you fear, something you believe in, something that astounds or repulses you.

Otherwise, the glue won't hold.

No comments:

Post a Comment