Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Deborah Wright's ProfileCurrent Project: Dueling Projects
Status: Deciding which one to focus on!

I'd like to talk about theme as it pertains to writing for a moment. Wait! Don't run away! This isn't your high school or college English class--I promise there won't be a quiz later. Okay? Good.

Theme. I can't deny I still shudder whenever someone brings it up in a conversation about writing, or, say, at a writer's conference. I never enjoyed that part of my English classes when I was in school (and I'll confess in college I only took the minimum number of English courses required to graduate). So why in the world would I want to talk about theme in this blog?

Well, I'll tell you--I've been going through all my office stuff the last few weeks, purging what I no longer need and trying to organize what's left. One of the more interesting aspects of this has been looking through my stacks of writing journals. I've only been writing with the goal of publication for about three years now, but I've been writing for myself for a heck of a lot longer--well over 10 years--and I've kept most of the journals and files for all that time. Not everything, mind you, but enough to get an idea of not only how much my writing's improved, but also about what kinds of stories have interested me over the years.

Does it surprise anyone else that I recognized patterns, common...wait for it...themes, running through the majority of my stories? I'm not sure why, but I didn't expect it. It isn't that I'm telling the same stories over and over. It's that most of my stories seem to end up being about the same core things: the nature of good and evil, and discovering one's true self when the chips are down. (I also discovered a couple of old story ideas that I may resurrect one day, but that's a blog post for another day.)

Thinking about story themes still makes my head want to explode. But at least I'm beginning to recognize that themes exist in my writing, even if I didn't consciously plan it that way. How about you? Do you like talking theme? Or do you prefer to avoid the topic, too? Do you recognize the themes that run through your own writing? Care to share?


wavybrains said...

Great post, Debbie! I think that similar themes definitely run through my books--ugly duckling story/odd-woman-out, going home again, not recognizing what one really needs, redemption, validation, and self-worth are a few I really see in most of my ideas. I also notice that my favorite writers tend to have recurring themes as well. In fact, I think part of what makes them my favorites is my own identification with their themes--it's a deeper connection than just liking someone's voice.

Katie said...

Hmm... I don't know if I have themes... maybe teens stepping up and taking on their responsibility. But I've never paid much attention, actually. I just write. It makes sense that our writing would have recurring themes, though, because it's something we believe in or are passionate about, so of course it's going to creep in there somehow. ^_^ That's a really neat discovery, Debbie.

We did theme a few months ago in Lit. class. Ugh. SO boring. But I don't mind looking for theme if my grade doesn't depend on it! Then I can look stupid and not get marked down. XD LOL

Lisa Leoni said...

Great topic, Debbie! I'm a running away from theme person too. Eli and I have had some conversations about our themes before, and I never really like what they reveal about myself. About the personal problems or issues that lurk under the surface. *shudders* But I agree that they are definitely important.

Genene Valleau said...

LOL, Debbie!

I avoided themes in my writing for years and then, like you, discovered they occurred whether I thought about them or not.

The themes I see in my writing are people who endure personally traumatic events in their lives and emerge stronger, still looking for that happily-ever-after ending. Second chances also crops up in my writing a lot.

Themes can actually be very useful in helping develop your author brand if you're at that point in your career.

Thanks for the interesting post!

Alice Sharpe said...

LOL, Debbie. I can't say as I'd rush out to take a class on themes and my head also begins spinning when people ask me what my theme is and I stumble around for several seconds until I find a way to divert their attention like lighting their pants on fire or stepping in front of a bus.

But, after this many books and stories, I[d have to be pretty blind and denser than I am not to have noticed common threads. These are even more obvious when you write a synopsis for many books and you find yourself using many of the same words in the part where you assure your editor there is a take away meaning to the 300 pages you want them to buy. Mine seem to be trust, family, being true to yourself. Maybe there are additional themes that I haven't dug deep enough, ala Lisa, to notice.

I have to go. My head hurts and I have a sudden urge to play with fire...

Linda Rader said...

I think a theme is what is disovered after the story is written. You discover what the theme was all along.

Elisabeth Naughton said...

Oy. Themes. I'm with Lisa. Sometimes it scares me to think about the themes in my own work, for very personal reasons.

That said, the common theme in all my books is probably redemption, second chances and forgiveness.

And one disturbing theme? One character in all my books always seems to have father issues. ROFL. (I'm like Disney, which always seems to kill off the mother in every single fairy tale.)

And Alice, you said, "...I stumble around for several seconds until I find a way to divert their attention like lighting their pants on fire or stepping in front of a bus." No, honey. That last line should be "...push them in front of a bus." If they're foolish enough to ask, they'd better be ready for anything. ;)

Paty Jager said...

I'm one of those runners! I go completely blank when someone asks me the theme of my stories. I never think about them, when I do I get a headache. LOL

Danita is always asking me my theme and telling me to write it down and tape it to the monitor to keep the story on task. I've yet to come up with a theme while figuring out the story. And sometimes when I'm finished I"m still scratching my head.

My stories usually have something to do with justice and honor.