Yesterday I rambled for a while on the difficulties of plotting, or rather thinking up a plot that isn’t overused, overwrought, or just plain boring. Some stories don’t need great plots to stand out, though. Some stories are carried entirely by their characters who sometimes sit around in a room for the entire book (No Exit. Waiting for Godot. Anyone?).
There are lots of important elements that go into creating stories, and half the time, we don’t even realize we’re doing it, which brings me to my point: theme. Every story has a theme even if it’s one you never meant to create.
I honestly never gave much thought to what my themes were as I wrote my novels and short stories, but a few months ago, I began to realize something: all my stories have the same theme. It wasn’t until I was describing a plot to someone what I realized what the theme was. After that, I thought of another story, then another, then another, and lo, they all had the same theme.
I’ve written over 300 short stories, six novels, and five screenplays. Every novel and every screenplay has the same theme even if that had not been my intention or even in my head at the time of writing. As I sit here plotting my new novel and my new screenplay, the theme is now in my head. I can’t get it out now that I’ve finally realized what it is.
My theme is self-acceptance. Every one of my protagonists, and sometimes the antagonists too, goes through a process of realizing who they truly are and coming to terms with it in the course of their story. I am a character writer, so obviously this works well for my methods, but it also leads me to question why this is my theme.
Without getting too personal, I’ll just say that I’ve found that a person’s particular theme is special to them. There are many reasons why my theme is self-acceptance, and I’m really not surprised that it is. What surprised me was how long it took me to realize that. I’ve never been very good at analyzing literature (in high school, I barely scraped by in that aspect), but you’ve got to have a basic understanding of that to write. I won’t say it necessarily helps, though. I mean, look at Stephenie Meyer, an English Lit major, and her books are… well. Let’s just say they won’t be counted among the great works in any lifetime.
Maybe it takes a long time to figure out your particular theme (over 300 works in my case) or maybe you know from the start. Maybe you just need someone else to point it out to you. Other writers out there, what are your themes? And do they seem to fit who you are? Now that I know, I wonder how it’s going to affect my writing – more or less pressure, or if I’ll just go on writing my same thematic stories. Only time will tell.