A Universal Theme

When I was planning out my blog posts for the next two months, I wrote down titles for each date but didn’t leave much detail. So, of course, the original title for this post (A New Start) ended up being something different. I think they’re related though because what I’m writing today has given me new insight into my writing. I was considering the elements of a novel earlier and how they were all intertwined with the story I was trying to tell. Some of these elements are obvious like setting (where the story takes place) and characters (the people who populate a story) But there is one element I’ve always been confused by, and that’s what I want to talk about today. I’ll be writing about theme, how the theme is different from the plot, and how I came upon the theme I’ve been using in the stories I’ve written so far.

First, there’s theme. When I first started becoming aware of and learning the elements of my craft, it was one of the hardest I had to consider. I couldn’t see where it was different from plot. I guess a better way to say it was that I couldn’t separate them. Here is what theme means. “The central idea, topic, or point of a story, essay, or narrative is its theme.”(literaryterms.net) It is trying to convey a belief about life that is universal. While I could tell what my story was about, thinking of a message behind the words was not something I could fathom. 

Then there’s the definition of plot – “the main events of a play, novel, movie, or similar work, devised and presented by the writer as an interrelated sequence.” (lexico.com) The main events. Like I said before, I could tell what my story was about in excruciating detail, but there was no life lesson, and therefore, no theme. There was no life I could see in them.

But, I’ve been doing some thinking recently about the words I’ve written, the stories I’ve finished, and the book I’m working on. And I realized my stories do have a universal theme. They all have a female main character who is trying to achieve her dreams while overcoming obstacles from her past. The situations are different, but the journeys are the same. This might seem basic to some, and I’m pretty sure it’s a universal theme, but it was helpful to me. Because, even if this theme is a basic one in storytelling, I still have my way to tell the story. Since I’m unique and the only one of me God made, I am the only one who can tell the story I need to tell. It was a realization I needed to have.

I don’t know if all writers need to do this kind of soul-searching to find the themes of their stories, but it has helped me make sense of my journey through life as much as my characters’ journeys through their stories. I’m hoping this is something all of us can consider as we consider theme.

Hope everyone has a great day!


Back to School Musings

There are two times during the year which are generally regarded as times of new beginnings. The first is obvious. At the beginning of the calendar year, people tend to look at their lives and decide what they either need to stop doing or what they want to start doing better. Then, they make resolutions and do their best to follow them. Sometimes, it works, and sometimes, the will to try is lost. The second time is when school begins again after summer vacations. In this scenario, children and adults of all ages are starting a new year of academic learning reflecting their age and how far they’ve come in academic achievement. Everything is new–their classrooms, their teachers, the people they’re learning with, and what they’re learning about. It’s a time of new beginnings.

Over my years as an adult, I’ve also used the beginning of school as a time of new beginnings for my own life. I was homeschooling my children so it was a natural fit, but there were also things not related to my children that I wanted to try and do differently. So, I also used this time as a new beginning.

This year though things have been different. I don’t feel like I can use this period as a new beginning anymore because my adult children are done with this stage. The older one has graduated from college, and the younger one is starting something not quite as traditional as what he did last year. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, of course, but it’s made me realize that our days of following a traditional school schedule are over. It’s given me a funny feeling which is hard to explain. It’s like there’s a distance between me now and the people who are still in this stage. It’s like I’m supposed to wish for something neither of my sons is ready for yet. (grandchildren) Many people in society look at this empty nest stage as a stage where women are supposed to go find themselves and not expect stability until grandchildren have arrived. Or they think women who are in this phase should be willing to impart their “wisdom” (not that anyone listens to me anyway) to the generation of mothers behind them.

But neither of those fit where I am right now. I thought about it some more to see if I could come up with a solution, and I realized that God had already given me one. He gives us an option to start anew every day which has nothing to do with any particular part of the calendar. Don’t believe me? It says so in the Bible, specifically in Lamentations 3:22-23. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” According to this, God has established every day as a new beginning. We have another chance to try again. So, this is what I will think of when I feel odd during back to school time. My God is a God of grace who is always willing to let me start again. I hope we can all think of God as a God of new beginnings.

God bless you all!

Simple Stories

This was written yesterday in case anyone who knows the particulars is reading.

I’ve been looking back today. Looking back on what happened over thirty years ago. I wasn’t in town on the day it happened. I was several states away. But, I came home a few days later and got to hold an unexpected blessing in my arms. He was so tiny then but already loved by so many. He’s not tiny anymore. He’s a grown man who has been a blessing to all over his life. I remember hearing he and his brothers sing at their father’s funeral a year ago, and I remember when he and his cousin were the ring bearer and flower girl at my own wedding over twenty-five years ago. His family had enfolded me into theirs when I was in college, and we shared all the important family events together…the good ones and the bad ones. There are so many stories I could tell about this family and the life I lived with them. I could fill-up this space and then some with all the stories I could tell.

But, that’s not the reason I share this today. I share it because of how deceptively simple the concept of story is. I have been complicating it with the book I’ve been writing as one of my dreams is to be published one day. I think that may have been the reason the writing has become complicated. I let the end goal complicate the results I’m trying to achieve, and the words stopped gushing. They shouldn’t have. The story I’m trying to tell of a journalist caught up in horrific national events while dealing with her own past is still there. I just can’t make it leave my head and travel to my computer screen.

I want to finish this story though. I want to tell it like I tell the stories of my life. The stories of a life well-lived like some people say at funerals. I don’t know if people will say that about me at my funeral. It’s funny that other people get to make those judgments. It’s almost like my own opinion about my life is not one that will make it into the history books. But I’m going to tell my stories anyway…the simple ones and the complicated ones. The ones that people want to hear and the ones they don’t. The times when I lived to glorify my Lord and Savior and the times when I didn’t. The stories that taught me life lessons and the ones that are just better for a desk drawer. Because if I don’t tell my stories, then who will?

I might never be as popular as J.K. Rowling or Danielle Steel. I might never write or sell as many books as James Patterson or Dan Brown. I might never win the Nobel Prize for Literature like Toni Morrison who died today. One thing though that I’m pretty sure we all share is the ability to tell a story. Whether that story is simple or complicated, we are forever yoked in the need to tell it. Because that is what our history is built on. The concept of story. From the parables of Jesus to the novels of today, all who tell stories are building on what has come before and making our lives understandable to those who will come in the future.

May we all have a chance to tell our stories! God bless you!