Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thoughts and Themes

It's been a week since I wrote anything here, mostly because I've been so wrapped up in my NaNo story that I haven't taken the time to do anything else. I'm up over 41,000 words, which is great, because now I can take the time Wednesday to cook for Thursday and not feel bad about it.

But that's the only good thing about this story! At least, at the moment. I realized today, as I was rereading what I had written...I know, I know, you're not supposed to do that, and now I wish I hadn't...anyway, I realized that I don't have one cohesive story, I have two not-so-cohesive stories!

Oh yes, Lily Leticia has gone off on a tangent, and I'm not sure how to get her back on track. It is the tangent that made me think I have two stories. Actually, I know I have two stories, but the trick now is to get them back together to be one...for the moment, anyway. My husband said, "Why bother? No one will be reading it until you've edited and revised, so who will know?" Always the logical one. The point is: I will know!

So, once I do get through this, instead of making Lily Leticia the MC of a full-length novel, I think I will be able to do two short-chapter books instead. I've never written a short-chapter book, so this will be a good learning experience for me.

As I was rereading this morning, it occurred to me that I didn't really know what the theme of this story is. So I got to thinking about themes, which are almost as much a bugaboo for me as outlines are.
Do you write around a theme? I don't. I suppose I could if someone said you have to have your theme first. But I've always "just written," and then have occasionally been surprised at the end when I realized what the theme of the story actually was.

When I wrote The Year of the Scream, my theme was relationships. But I didn't start out with that in mind. I was about 1/4 of the way through the novel when I was pleasantly surprised to see that my story DID have a theme, and I already knew what it was!

With Lily Leticia, I'm almost through and I still don't know what the theme is. Theme is only one element of the story, but it works together ( or should) with both the plot and the structure. They should be interrelated in such a way that they reflect back on one another. Hmm...

A writer friend once asked me if a theme wasn't the same thing as a moral and I said I didn't think so. When we write for children, we should never try to preach or to moralize the story to them. If kids realize that there is a "moral" or a "lesson" to something they are reading for fun, the book or magazine story will simply end up in the trash.

Remember the story "Charlotte's Web?" Here the theme is the power of loyalty and friendship...the loyalty and friendship Charlotte the spider shows to Wilbur the pig, and how she saves him from being slaughtered. How about "Where the Wild Things Are?" You cannot forget Max, and his anger towards his mother when she calls him a "wild thing" after he has been so mischievious. His anger and how he handles it, by playing it out in his fantasy, is the theme.

The important thing to remember about themes is that you don't want to "tell" what they are; you want to "show" them in the behavior of your characters. How the characters act, react, and interact with one another and with their circumstances in the story should be how your reader will learn about the theme.

Good questions to ask yourself about your story are these: what is the child who reads this going to learn without knowing that she/he is learning? What is she/he going to take away from the story when she puts it back on the shelf? If you can answer those questions honestly and cogently, you know that your story has a theme...and more importantly, YOU know what that theme is !

In the meantime...I'm still asking myself those same questions...but I'm not getting any answers right now!

1 comment:

  1. oh grrr, you are reading my mind. This is exactly why I didn't want to write over the weekend, I realized my story might not have a strong theme...or plot, or characters. However, after a little laugh with my hubby, I decided to heck with it, I'll figure that out next month. LOL This is a great post to star for myself when I go to revising. :0)