Wednesday, October 26, 2011

6 Points in Developing a Theme

[No more WIP for a while as I am involved in writing a short story for a sci-fi franchise that has dibs on the material. I should finish it soon and we'll get back to the story at hand.]
1. Traditionally, stories portray a struggle between good and evil (although the definition is often in the mind of the protagonist and may not match the readers definition of good and evil).
2. All stories demonstrate that certain people have had experiences that make a statement about life, leaving the reader with a conclusion about the nature of existence that can be verified in real life. This is called the theme on the story.
After reading a story, the reader comes to some conclusion about life, that he may or may not have known before, as the author has shown it to be in the story. He can apply this discovery to life and test it for veracity. some conclusions about the nature of life may be very complex and will require the reader to use a great deal of intelligence and literary skill. For example the conclusion that crime does not pay is a somewhat valid but poor interpretation of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. But whether simpler or complex the conclusion that the reader reaches is what I am calling the theme of the story.
3. An author's interpretation of his statement of purpose results in the theme of the novel.
Sorry, information out of sequence,  I will discuss later the development of an idea for a story that will define statement of purpose. but the short version, when an author states his purpose in writing a story he is going to prove something about life. The only way he can do this is to prove that something is either good or evil. It is quite possible to put on the yoke of someone else's values, but the safest and most productive choice is for the author to utilize his own values of which he is most familiar and most likely to create a fully formed truth.
4. The theme of a story is derived from the struggle between good and evil.
This is not to say that an antagonist must be pure evil and the protagonist must be pure good. That would result in the most boring of characters in any type of story with the exception of the allegory where characters take on the stereotypical traits of personality types.
When the environment generates good the protagonist must, ordinarily, represent evil and vice versa. I'm not using good and evil as absolutes here, but working within the terms of the author's particular vision.
5. In a traditional story either good or evil triumphs, and the result of the struggle between the two is the theme.
6.This should be obvious but bears mentioning. Thematic significance of a story arises from an exaggerated impression of life.
An ordinary expression of life would not be significant to a reader and would actually make it doubtful the reader would finish reading the story.
[Next stop the bane of all authors: exposition]