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seun
04-17-2010, 05:02 PM
I'm in the middle of my third edit of my WIP and I've worked out what's wrong with it.

I was more interested in forcing the story to be about something, to have a theme, than I was with the actual story. I've always believed the story is in charge and I'm happy with that. But with this book, I really ballsed it up by focusing way too much on theme in place of story. It's got a decent idea behind it - and that's the problem. The story is behind what I wanted to say when it should be the other way around.

So, how do you treat your themes and intentions? Let them grow from the story, not care about themes and just get on with a good story, or keep one eye on what you want to say while writing?

Devil Ledbetter
04-17-2010, 05:15 PM
So, how do you treat your themes and intentions? Let them grow from the story, not care about themes and just get on with a good story, or keep one eye on what you want to say while writing?I write the story for the story. A theme will develop and I'll spot that while in rewrite. I then play it up a bit in rewrite, and make sure its stirred in without lumps during edits. For me, writing to a theme from the start would get awkward.

seun
04-17-2010, 05:20 PM
For me, writing to a theme from the start would get awkward.

That's what's happened with my WIP. It stinks because I forced what I wanted to say and didn't focus enough on the story.

ccv707
04-17-2010, 06:33 PM
Theme is something that comes out of a story organically, not something you necessarily have to give it. I can't imagine sitting at the computer and wondering "what is the theme of this story now?"

Most stories start with the characters and grow from there. I wouldn't worry about the "theme" so much as are the characters fully realized. Then again, if you're reading through it and nothing is happening, I'd consider doing something drastic--anything, like starting over, making a character get killed, just something--to see if I could kick start events.

Very few if any stories ever get by on only a theme...if the story isn't interesting, no one will finish it anyway. Definitely, a story should be about something, but as I said, people drive the world just as the world drives people and people drive people. The constant is people. Allow the characters to grow, and make things happen to them. Horrible things, even. You have to test them to see what kind of people they really are. People change over time. Allow your characters to. Among other things, the bulk of a story comes out of that.

ishtar'sgate
04-17-2010, 06:38 PM
Sometimes theme is unconscious. I hadn't considered theme until a student asked me about the theme of my novel. It was there all along I just didn't write to theme so had to think about it. When I focused on theme it leaped out at me immediately, complete with repeating motif.

Libbie
04-17-2010, 06:43 PM
Good thread, since I am about to start on a theme-heavy novel. Food for thought!

Lady Ice
04-17-2010, 08:04 PM
I work it out as my plot evolves and the plot evolves to the logic of the theme. It'll normally jump out at you when you write a really intense scene.

Phaeal
04-17-2010, 10:36 PM
I usually discover my theme while reading Draft One and planning Draft Two. Ah hah! So THAT'S what I wanted to say.

Soccer Mom
04-17-2010, 11:20 PM
I usually discover my theme while reading Draft One and planning Draft Two. Ah hah! So THAT'S what I wanted to say.

This!

I find the theme when the novel is completed. Drafts two and three further develop it, but I rarely set out with a theme in mind. I might have a general idea, but the end product is often different from the conception.

Jamesaritchie
04-18-2010, 04:48 AM
If you write a story, it comes with a theme. All good stories have a theme as a byproduct. So I just write the best story I can and never even think about theme until the final draft. At that point, once the story is finished, it's much easier to find and polish the theme.

Tracy
04-18-2010, 01:34 PM
I agree with the other comments, but I also add that in my experience, theme is the beginning AND the end of the story. I think that theme is intrinsically linked with whatever inspired you to write that story in the first place. What exactly was it about that particular dilemma, that attracted you to invest the time in writing the story? You don't have to answer that, but when you consider theme at the end, I bet you'll find that it's tied in with the germ of the story which intrigued you.

seun
04-18-2010, 02:45 PM
I usually discover my theme while reading Draft One and planning Draft Two. Ah hah! So THAT'S what I wanted to say.

That's happened to me with a couple of my other books. Just a shame I didn't work on this one with the same way of thinking.

spike
04-18-2010, 03:56 PM
I think the problem is the title of this thread. Consciously or not, you wrote "Forcing" the theme.

Don't force it. Just write.

Lady Ice
04-18-2010, 04:57 PM
I agree with the other comments, but I also add that in my experience, theme is the beginning AND the end of the story. I think that theme is intrinsically linked with whatever inspired you to write that story in the first place. What exactly was it about that particular dilemma, that attracted you to invest the time in writing the story? You don't have to answer that, but when you consider theme at the end, I bet you'll find that it's tied in with the germ of the story which intrigued you.

Exactly.

Kalyke
04-18-2010, 05:51 PM
I have a vague idea about the theme of my wip. I get through the first draft, and "find" the theme, and then go back and make it a bit stronger in some areas while I work on the polish/finishing phase of writing. Already I have seen that it is very strong with the dichotomy of winning/losing, and has a lot of generalities about "blame." I will firm this up later as I get to know the characters better.

Dr.Gonzo
04-18-2010, 06:16 PM
I write satirical social commentaries where themes are very important, and it can be very easy to let them rule the story. So... great thread. I always have an idea of what I want to say with the story, but I try my hardest to put it to the back of my mind so it doesn't rule the main objective - telling a damn good tale. It's a tricky balancing act. By the second draft I can tell where I've pushed it too much or not enough, and I can tell if there's any other themes trying to say hello that I can nurse. Story should always come first and that's what I spend my time worrying about, but I always keep my themes on the back burner, hoping they'll be subtle enough to compliment the main course.

I keep using food metaphors today; I'm soooo hungry :(

seun
04-18-2010, 06:39 PM
I think the problem is the title of this thread. Consciously or not, you wrote "Forcing" the theme.


It was completely conscious because that's exactly what I did with the first draft of my WIP.

shaldna
04-19-2010, 12:08 AM
Firstly, this is a really intersting question.

Secondly, in answer, I have to admit that I don't think too much about what I am writing until afterwards, but in the past I have had the same problem you are talking about now.

I ended up scrapping the novel becuase I couldn't get around how forced it all was. So i'll be interested in seeing what others think