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!