A land forged from the fires of strife, blood of heroes, and touch of the gods.
Where deeds of great valor, vile evils, and blazing passions intertwine
to shape the course of elven and human history within.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Theme Song

I've just reread Stephen King's "On Writing" for about the third time since I bought it a couple of months ago.  Why, you ask?  Because I use it as a source of inspiration in my writing, words of wisdom, so to speak.  It keeps me focused on my current projects, "Blood Secret" (The Ardwellian Chronicles Book Five) and "Champions" (my second Ardwellian compendium), and it's really a great read for anyone who writes or is simply interested in the craft of writing and how a master has done it his way.
Two of the issues King talks about are "Story" and "Theme".  The "Story" is just that; the characters, the happenings, the twists and turns and happenstances woven together to make a whole tale.  "Theme" is something that may (or may not) emerge as the Story progresses, and usually it isn't thought about until the first or second draft is complete and the author has a chance to read the manuscript as a "story", not as a "work in progress that must be corrected".  
I've always thought the best books have a theme, however subtle.  Others, of course, beat you over the head with it and this, in my opinion, can turn a good tale bad, simply by the heavy-handedness of the writer.  The Story is the thing, and too many writers approach their story wanting to "teach a lesson" or "make a point".  This works alright for non-fiction formal papers (obviously, as this is one of their purposes), but not so well in fiction.  
King believes Story is what drives a tale, and I agree.  Plot, he says, is not so important as simply creating a situation, dropping characters into it, and seeing what happens.  We don't "plot" our lives, although many of us have a plan for success of one sort or another.  Rarely does that plan go as intended, and neither should a story; it should be organic, grow of its own developments, and characters grow with it.  And in that growth, a Theme may emerge, recognized perhaps only at the ending.
I've been through this with my books, and there is little doubt in my mind Theme was always there, just not necessarily realized until late in the development of the Story.  And that's a good thing, for as King says, Story is king (no pun intended), and if you don't tell the Story in its own way, (1) your characters will let you know, (2) your READERS will let you know, and (3) at some point you will realize yourself you've shoehorned a tale into a niche it really wasn't meant for.
Give the Story it's time to be told, and if there is a Theme, it will emerge on its own.  If not, at least you have told the Story honestly and not tried to make it something it really isn't.

1 comment:

Greg Gildersleeve said...

Thanks for the timely reminder of King's wisdom, Denny. Realizing that theme flows naturally from the story rather than being something the writer should be concerned with from the get-go frees a lot of writers from getting stuck.