This post is sort of an appendix to the last things I posted about writing on my Italian-language blog.
In a nutshell – when I’m planning a story, I jot down some basic ideas, a logline, a theme, some capsule sketches of the characters.
Then I outline.
Now, the theme is the issue.
And this not because some out there might decide to write without setting down a defined theme for their narrative.
I mean, it’s all right – each one defines his or her own technique.
No, what apparently bugs some readers is that a theme, for a genre story, is seen as superfluous or – even worse – as a Bad Thing.
This strangely widespread opinion is in part an anti-intellectual trend, in part a consequence of “message” having been used too often to justify bad storytelling.
And there’s also this weird idea that any writer defining a set of themes for his writing, is trying to push an ideology, or trying to sell something.
As I explained – at lenght – in my Italian posts, I think defining a theme (or a set of themes) helps me keep the narative on track, helps me define the actions of my characters, helps me find solutions.
The theme is not something I use to clobber my readers with.
It’s part of something I need as I build the story.
I see it – readers might want to guess it.
I am also convinced that short stories (the sort of narrative which I inflict to my small readership) need complex themes.
“Love”, “Friendship”, “Courage” are too ample and generic to work in a short story.
You can explore a big theme in a big narrative – a short story needs focus, needs to concentrate on a single facet of the larger theme.
So, as an unrequired bonus… what are my recurring themes?
Well, generally speaking, and off the top of my head, looking at my catalogue…
- the worth of the lone individual (I tend to concentrate on outsiders or loners)
- the strenght of a man & a woman together (I love to write about coupple of characters)
- humans as creatures of cohoperation (I think problem-solving is a collective activity)
- the weight of responsibility
- the need for lightness
- the need to follow the flow (in a sort of vaguely Taoist way)
Sounds pretty vague, eh?
And somewhat contradictory, too.
But so far, these themes have worked, for me.
What themes do you write about, out there?