East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

What’s My Theme?


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.

Theme PosterNow, 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.

The reason why I love writing about coupples.

The reason why I love writing about coupples.

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.

And you?
What themes do you write about, out there?

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

4 thoughts on “What’s My Theme?

  1. While I was thinking about my themes I realized the fact that my themes can be different from the themes I like to find in a story.
    For example 2 of my themes are the worth of the lone individual and the weight of responsibility but I really like the need for lightness and humans as creatures of cohoperation.
    What do you think?It’s normal to write something and like something else?


  2. Quite normal from where I stand, Cily. I believe we all – at least at times – write about themes we find urgent or necessary, rather than themes we *like*. There are questions, fears, doubts and yearnings that will force themselves into your writing, like it or not.
    One can get interesting surprises that way… 🙂


  3. Pingback: Let’s face the music, and dance | Karavansara

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.