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What's in a Theme

Welcome to another installment of the Blog Chain. I totally goofed up and was supposed to post on this last week. But...well...the road trip sorta prevented that. So, better late then never, right?!?

Today's topic is brought by Kate, who asks:

This I believe. Do you find yourself repeating certain themes in your writing? Can readers glean what you believe in or some of your life philosophies from reading your work?

Ah yes, themes. Defined by Miriam-Webster as a specific topic of artistic expression, themes are what transform a story from a 2-dimension stream of words into something more. At least, that is how I look at it.

Those of you who know me know that I am a pretty deep thinker. I have a huge philosophic aspect to me and am regularly looking for the deeper meanings of things - the themes. This definitely shows in my writing. Whether I am writing a story about forbidden love, taking the reader on a dark psychological journey, or commenting on the joys of becoming a teen, each one of my stories deals with the theme of authenticity in some way - coming to terms with who you are at your core and accepting yourself. Even in my nonfiction, my focus in on authenticity and acceptance.

I attended a SCBWI conference a few years ago and heard a wonderful writing talking about themes. She said that she believed that all authors really only have one theme that tends to resurface throughout their work in various ways. I think this is probably true. At least for me.

I wanted to leave you with a quote or two from authors I admire:

"If a theme or idea is too near the surface, the novel becomes simply a tract illustrating an idea." - Elizabeth Browning
"To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme." - Herman Melville
I would be remiss to leave this post without also saying that I do not think theme is something you must know BEFORE drafting your story - rather it is something found in the process of revising and rewriting. For me, I am never certain what my theme is until my characters have woven their story around me and I have written it down. It is only in the revising that the theme is revealed - and it is almost always consistent with my personal theme of authenticity.

What about you? What are your thoughts about theme? For more on this topic, check out Katrina's post last week.


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