Monday, April 16, 2007


I'm still new when it comes to working with themes in a story, which I find ironic considering my background as a literature major where every essay had a theme and most of those themes were about themes in stories. But it is one thing to write about someone else's themes and another to actually put it into practice. Or so I'm learning.

In the past, I haven't noticed the theme of a story I'd written until the first full reading of the rough draft. This might be one reason I'm abominable at short story writing. In my newest w.i.p. (work in progress), which has just reached 12,000 words, I've already pegged a major theme. I think I pulled a muscle in my shoulder patting myself on the back.

It's a theme of isolation and it applies to both my main characters but in different ways. Taylor, the heroine protagonist, fears isolation. She has no family to speak of, so she's created family out of her closest friends and she has come to depend on their presence in her life. So, naturally, I'm going to heartlessly force her to cast them off (for their own safety) during the course of the story and thereby force her to face her fears.

The other character has been forced into isolation by his circumstances. When he took on the role he now plays, his understanding of it was quite different from the reality. Now that he's bound into his role, he's come to accept it, though increasingly begrudgingly (and there's another 'be-' word I like!). He has to maintain his isolation to perform his duty, so I'm going to heartlessly tempt him with a chance to be free of his duty completely just when he has a good reason to want to be free of it (but, naturally, there would be a high price for this freedom that isn't just about forsaking his sworn obligations).

I'm learning that themes are fun, because once I figured this story's main theme, I've been able to heartlessly exploit it to put my characters through intensely stronger torture than the usual sort of character torture I employ. And one of my rules of writing is "no character gets out unscathed."

I should start a list of my writing rules, now that I'm learning that I have some!


Carole said...

You definitely should create your own writing rules list. Everyone should, really.

I've been collecting rules from authors and found that some really do speak to me while others are just jumbled words on a page. Of course, I'm slowly developing some of my own, the most important of which at this time in my life is to just write if for no other reason than to create inventory.

Ris said...

I love the idea of creating inventory! That's certainly a unique but practical way to look at it.

I think I'll add a section in my new blog that is my growing list of writing rules.