View Full Version : what themes do you work into your story?

03-29-2005, 01:35 PM
of all genres, SF/F seems to be one that's got a very high potential to slip in some grander themes than most. so you sit down and consciously come up with a theme to guide the story? (maybe 'guide' isn't the best word...?) for instance, using a fantasy backdrop to illustrate how industry and/or science is/has destroyed a more philosophic or 'natural' way of living. or do you, for example, strongly equate a lot of nazi symbolism into your villians from planet x? the question also can be answered if you want to talk about metaphors, symbolism, etc..

03-29-2005, 02:03 PM
I tend to do it unconsciously, but the important of duty/obediance often gets worked in.

03-29-2005, 05:32 PM
I like using themes of honor, love, and courage.

03-29-2005, 05:35 PM
romance usually finds its way in mine though I dont push it.

03-29-2005, 07:15 PM
How people deal with the good/evil inside them

The nature of "good" vs. "evil"


03-30-2005, 01:55 AM
Hmm . . . I don't consciously include "big" themes in my work. I can't tell if anything's unintentionally slipping in -- I haven't written all that much -- though I find most of my characters survive by sheer, dogged obtuseness and reluctance to be surprised by their circumstances, rather than by any particular virtue or skill. If that can be universalized or interpreted, I do not know.

03-30-2005, 07:48 AM
I also like to feature stories where the odds are stacked against the main characters, whether they be protags or antags.

For instance, the 53 and 1 which can be read at http://seafarer.netfirms.com/2/revenge.htm or the Battle Off Samar at http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-vetscor/920191/posts or the Stephen Hopkins at http://www.usmm.org/hopkins.html .

03-30-2005, 08:30 AM
I try to make any themes hidden. For example, I wrote a "legend" style tale to tell (oral storytelling) after we declared war on Iraq (or however you think going to war against them should be phrased). I researched a real ruler of Arabia, found a parallel ruler in Ireland for the same time and linked thier kingdoms through a family's travels and marriage of two children. The purpose many get from my story is to explain (a porquois tale) why some Celtic people have dark hair and eyes. My real reason was to have a wise and kind ruler in Arabia for my (American) audiences to hear about. I never tell the audience my "real" reason. I just have the satisfaction of creating a story that meets that purpose.

03-30-2005, 07:49 PM
My current favorite theme is the main characters finding out about the world around them and dealing with it. Like, two people from different worlds get stuck dealing with the clash of the two worlds.

04-04-2005, 09:41 AM
I like themes that center around religious vs. scientific debates, such as destiny, faith and so forth. I incorporate the seven heavenly virtues and the seven deadly sins into my stories a lot (or just some of them, not all). I like writing stories of redemption and personal sacrifice for the greater good, but I *hate* preachiness in fiction, so I disguise these ideas heavily through my gift of subtlety. Some readers don't even notice the stories have a theme.

If anyone's curious, I have no religion, myself. I find it fascinating, however, and I know that a big part of many people's way of looking at life comes from their faith (or lack thereof). I try not to play favorites with my characters (although my villains tend not to have a faith). Some of my most likable characters are very devout individuals (unlike myself).

04-04-2005, 09:50 AM
i do the same thing, though usually without much camouflage. i'll have a character do or say something usually and not explain it to much detail, letting the chips fall where they may with the reader. i don't necessarily need for my reader to agree with the character as long as it's plausible. in 'preyers', for example, eventually the armies of God become mingled with those of other faiths. i don't explain it because no matter how much description and attention and arguments i expound on, you either buy it or you don't. there are some conflicts which i rouse around and leave it at that.

04-04-2005, 06:25 PM
I tend to focus on exploration: either of the soul or a more literal bind, or both.

04-13-2005, 11:39 PM
I don't usually work out my themes beforehand - finding out what they are going to be is part of the struggle of writing and part of the fun. I don't usually feel confident that I know what I'm doing until I realise what the theme is. That's characters are trying to tell me. Then it's like a new light falls onto all the events of the story, and I know how to finish the book, and how to go back and re-write the beginning.

My first story basically screamed 'Self-Acceptance!'. The second was forgiveness. The third was a bit more complex - there was a strong redemption theme in there, and one of overcoming prejudice. WIP is about courage to be different.

Having said, that there's a theory that each writer basically uses the same theme over and over again, whether they realise it or not. It's a subconscious thing that goes on beneath any other themes you think you're writing. I never believed this, until my editor pointed out that everything I've written shows some form of persecution perpetrated against innocents. That knocked me back a step - it's completely true. And I don't seem to be able to think of any stories that don't have an element of that in them. So maybe that's my theme...

04-14-2005, 10:28 PM
I don't consciously pick a theme. I'd say my current work is about loyalty vs honor. And I've recently noticed the main characters(except antagonist) all have mothers who've died. I'm not sure I know why I did that.

04-14-2005, 10:35 PM
I usually write very quirky characters and their struggles to fit into an unquirky world...I guess good/bad and wierd/normal and the lines that these differences cross.

04-15-2005, 06:22 PM
i often examine the true meanigns of good and evil, and try to avoid blak-versus-white conflicts.

the one theme which is present in all my works is to show the downsides of being a hero. my main charatcers are usually ambitious, talented, eventually famous. they're envied by everyone, but they feel alienated from society, both because of their differences from ordinary people, and because of their calling to adventure and glory. they can't rest until... well, actually they just can't rest, always striving onward for the greater good. i don't think most heroes can actually retire- they just continue until they fall in battle.

04-15-2005, 10:27 PM
In a story I'm working on, very few of the heroes make it into a big thing. Instead, they treat it as did a lot of soldiers in WWII. They come home and look to merge back into society. It was something they did because they were in the right place at the right time to make a difference. Probably this is because the heroes in this story come from the same common group of people as many ordinary real heroes emerge from.

Sure, some talk about being heroic before ever seeing any action, but that's the kind of talk you get among people who have no idea of just how chaotic and dangerous battles are. Only the political animals go in expecting to be heroes and do whatever they can to assure that they're the ones who are remembered as heroic even if ten others have to die for them.

William Haskins
04-16-2005, 05:32 AM
for me themes emerge from stories, not the other way around. they aren't an ingredient, they're a by-product.

04-16-2005, 06:19 AM
The themes grow organically from the characters and situations but I suppose they also reflect whatever tends to interest the author. One theme that comes up several times, especially in the story I'm writing now, is about people who are trapped or damaged and in some way needing rescuing, and the fact that however helpless they might initially seem they are still *themselves,* with personal agendas, bad tempers, idiotic senses of humour etc. etc. which defy categorization as "pathetic victim."

This I suppose has to do both with my having grown up surrounded by concentration-camp survivors and having several friends who were abused as children, and also to do with my having worked for the NHS - it's that old adage about seeing the patient, not just the problem.

04-16-2005, 09:32 PM
those with political agendas after the war tend to be officers in the first place. some are better than others. JFK was a real honest to gawd hero in WWII (PT-109), while others flat-out lied about their war experience such as joseph mccarthy. patton even tried his hand at politics, i believe, and even non-war heroes such as eliot ness became (bad) politicians (though it could be argued neither had these ambitions beforehand, i suppose). the thing is it's a proven boon to have gotten high marks while in the military (or police) when going for votes. just recently, john kerry was tauted as a vietnam war hero (with much controversy involved) while clinton's draft-dodging was downplayed by the very same political group as 'military service should not be considered when voting for a president.'

basically it boils down to if heroes are made or are born for the most part. those with the notion to be a 'hero' for personal gain aren't heroes in my book. while it seems FA fancies the born part of heroism, i like my heroes typically to be everyday guys. potter works for the simple fact that it's fantasy-fulfillment, that every reader could possibly hold powers they don't know they have. for adult fare, particularly in SF i think, most of us guys growing older can associate better with the idea that we can be heroes, too, given the right situation. i think it's a lot harder to like mr. perfect with his little problems than it is for someone like myself who's given the chance to prove their worth, at least for me. that's why stories with people who have abilities that i could never possess aren't as interesting to me. (this isn't to say your story, FA, is bad or anything, just saying that i as a reader prefer stories with a different take. can't please everyone, eh? lol.)

my themes tend to grow from the plot and characters and to a certian extent the setting. every now and then i'll make some connection there and run with the idea, though i've found that when i do that it usually dillutes the story. i think once you have a 'theme' you start getting away from being entertaining by a few degrees and enter the realm of 'having something to say.' i also sometimes try to kill themes quick by wrapping the idea up inside a paragraph in no uncertain terms just so i'm not stuck for the rest of the story trying to 'say' something. it also gives me the freedom to later on reinforce it or ignore it instead of dragging it out.

04-17-2005, 05:34 AM
In order to feel interested and sympathetic I would like to be told in the story *why* FA's heroes feel so driven to succeed. It suggests either hormonal imbalance or neurosis - something like having had an older sibling who was held up as perfect while they were ignored.

04-17-2005, 05:03 PM
actually, on second thoughts, not *all* of my heroes are that way, but the reasons vary.

one is about an angel (really Lucifer). all the angels are driven individuals, him especially. he is obssessed with bringing justice to the world.

another story is about a woman who, after the death of her husband, tries to escape the memories by avoiding normal life entirely and throwing herself into dangerous situations for teh good of her country.

another one features a normal person thrown into the role of "hero" by a prophecy. ultimately, he realizes that the prophecy never really said that it had to be him specifically, the others just misinterpreted it. ultiamtely, at the point where he's supposed to claim the Plot Coupon that will give him godlike powers, he decides he doesn't want it qand goes home; his embittered power-hungry sister takes it to prove that she's better than he is. later he realizes that he doesn't need that power to make a difference, and he helps her get out of the trouble she gets into with her powers.

in that one, his sister is my typical hero, but the protagonist is not.