The birth of themes

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The birth of themes

Postby Baker » 27 Sep 2012, 10:30

When I first started writing, I had no clue about themes. Did writers deliberately craft them and insert them as they wrote? I remember a book where it said you spotted themes on a rewrite and burnished them at that stage.

I still have no clue where themes come from. All hail the back brain!

Anyway, what prompted this post is that I think I've just spotted a theme in a zero (first) draft as I'm writing. I can't recall doing that before. It's about lesbians and gardens. I've just realised that the "totally comfortable with being a dyke" lesbian in the story has a magnificent garden and is an avid gardener who loves flowers and nurturing blooms etc etc. The bisexual, who has had lesbian affairs, notices the POV character's garden as the first point in her first visit to the POV charater's house. The POV character has not realised yet that she is a dyke, and does not regard herself as a gardener--except, she is totally enamoured of a whole different world--and sees herself very much in the role of caretaker there--that is more exotic than any earthly garden. (Yeah, I know, but this is a fantasy where I'm dealing with multiple worlds. It makes some sense in my head.) And, yeah, I know gardens and lesbians is not exactly earthshatteringly original, but when it comes to themes I'll take anything I can get.

What about you and themes? Do they come or do you put them there?
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities ~ Voltaire
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Re: The birth of themes

Postby PaulaO » 27 Sep 2012, 17:04

They come to me. I don't understand themes, either. But sometimes I see something that just keeps popping up. It's usually surprising when I see it later.

Then again, To Sleep deals with the phrase "now I lay me down to sleep" but it is more the waking up that shows through rather than the falling asleep.

In BGCFA, it was fixing stuff. Another duh, right?

And The Awakening is about waking up, about the struggle of coming into consciousness (in more ways than one).

Simple Sarah is about how it is the common folk who make the biggest differences, not the sword swinging heroine.
Take a deep breath and count to zen.
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Re: The birth of themes

Postby ElaineB » 27 Sep 2012, 22:57

There might be one theme I know I'm starting with, especially in short stories, which are nothing without theme. But others do pop out later and I'll either beef them up or squash them. You can have too many themes.

I don't think themes are all that mysterious. Just another way to say bias, perspective, POV even. Readers can find themes the writer isn't even aware of, because of their own biases.

I've also read that theme is not something you should write consciously, that it needs to come on its own. Probably because there's nothing worse than a forced theme.
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Re: The birth of themes

Postby Baker » 28 Sep 2012, 07:11

ElaineB wrote:Readers can find themes the writer isn't even aware of, because of their own biases.

Yes, this is very cool. I love it when a reader points out something I hadn't seen. It's awesome to realise other people bring a new perspective to your writing.

I noticed this lesbians/female sexuality/gardens thing when a character did something a little odd. When I write something that doesn't immediately seem in character or add to the scene in a way that seems obvious to me, I stop to think about whether or not I need to change the action to something more appropriate. This time, I made the connection with the gardens and the women's sexuality, so I've lef it as is. Yesterday, the full-blown lesbian was visitng the POV character and asked to be shown the garden. I was aware of what was happening on the thematic level, as well as it being a totally fitting action for the story at that point. The analogy that pops to mind is Wagner's leitmotivs: where the music and the words can combine, reinforce, or add subtle shading to each other. I'm definitely going to try to keep a tight rein on this: I don't want the story overwhelmed with a thematic kudzu. But it is pretty cool that it's happening: I take it as a somewhat comforting sign that something is actually there inside my brain doing something useful. (I can't always be sure of that!)
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities ~ Voltaire
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Re: The birth of themes

Postby Andain » 29 Sep 2012, 17:33

I'm not always aware of themes as I start writing them, but generally at some point they dawn on me. I've noticed even my short stories tend to have themes, so I dunno, I guess I like them... lol.
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