Tag Archives: theme

The Message

2 Apr

Every novel has a message. No matter what it is about, there is always something that the writer wants to say. That is what makes a story even more interesting to read, and as a writer, it makes the story even more interesting to write.

I highly recommend thinking about what you want to say before you grace the page with even a single word. Only because it saves time when editing. With the regular visits of new characters, saved time is a good thing.

The main thing you should ask yourself is: what do I want people to think about once they’ve put down my book? Then it’s just a matter of contemplating what events and characters you want to use to make people think about that. So the coming up with a message is actually the easy part. However, it is a lot easier now that you know what you’re working towards. And it’s also easier for your characters. Considering how we torture them already, it’s only the kind thing to do.

Themes Make the Story Go Around

19 Feb

Like a carousel with haunting horses and dark chariots.

Some people might think that themes are unnecessary creativity stifling monsters that force you to actually think about your story and go deep, but since when are those bad things? There’s something to be said for just writing, and thinking can sometimes block you. However, there will be moments, especially at the start of a story, that your mind will block because you HAVEN’T thought about your story. Every character needs a main reason to do what they do and be who they are. It’s the same for the story itself. What drives the story? Including all its characters combined. It’s the base, the centre. Without that, the story won’t spin around.

I’ll give an example. At some point a writing bug caught me and I started working on a story involving a weird circus. I was inspired by an image and really wanted to create something wondrous to do that image justice. However, I was stuck after four pages. Why? Because of the theme. What was this story about? What did I want the characters to learn? To achieve? What was the point of it all? I’d put the curious girl and her fearful friend in the circus. They’d seen exotic animals without leashes, a mirror hall that showed strange reflections, and circus people that could give Lady Gaga a run for her money. But what was I going to do with them afterwards? I had just thrown them in there without instructions. Poor characters.

I find it difficult to think of a theme. I find it extremely difficult to think of where they are going. Yet, if I want to do my story justice (and I do), then I have to brainstorm on this. I have to figure them out. I have to put the story and its characters on that sofa and ask them psychologist-y questions, travel deep into their minds with pickaxes because that is kind of what writers do. And isn’t it wonderful?

Research As Inspiration

1 Nov

Drowning yourself in your story is the best way to ignite inspiration. Whatever your story is about, surround yourself with it. Find images and tape them to the walls of your mind. Or search for quotes that have to do with your theme/subject and scribble them on post-its. Basically any research helps. And how can it not? You have an idea that excites you and that’s why you want to write it down. Getting excited is only the beginning, staying excited is the key. Reminding yourself of all the aspects that you love about your story gives a boost of inspiration.

My favourite month is October and my favourite day is Halloween. Seriously, I like it more than my birthday. It also happens that I’m wrapping up a novel that involves a strange mansion, ghouls, a dog with three heads, people with eternal life, people searching to get eternal life, and an overall feeling of being on the threshold of life (and death) woven in between the words. What better than to get inspired for that final sprint on the day of Halloween?

*blows raspberries* Except that I was too tired from cleaning my brand new apartment all day. So I’m doing it now. Well, I’m writing ABOUT it now. What? Stop staring. I will do it. It’s just that I must share my pearl of wisdom with all of you other writers. And if you’re not a writer then you can enjoy peeking into the mind of a writer. Don’t mind the mess.

Now to prove to you that I am about to get down and writery, here’s a picture that helped inspire me.

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Characterisation

17 May

Let’s talk characterisation! Characterisation is one of the elements that makes up the wonderful world of fiction. In the cauldron labelled FICTION, you put (alongside characterisation) plot, theme, setting and style. Everybody handles their dosage in different ways. I usually put a dash of theme and setting and am heavier on the amount of characterisation, style and plot. Characterisation, though, is one of my favourite ‘ingredients’ to handle.

To me, a story can still have a plot that is lacking, but when the characters are so real I can reach the page and touch them, it makes for a gripping and good story. Sometimes that fits the story, to have the plot in the background. And sometimes it’s the other way around.

I like figuring things out, especially people. That is why I like mystery plots and deep characters. I guess as a writer, I have a preference for figuring out people instead of an actual mystery. I’m not the only one who thinks this, because

FUN FACT: around the fifteenth century, Aristotle advocated the plot-driven narrative, but in the nineteenth century that changed and the character-driven narrative was promoted, mainly due to the advanced knowledge of psychology.

In any case, let me give you a little info on the types of characters.

-Protagonist: the main character.

-Antagonist: adversary of main character.

-Point-of-view character: the character that observes (tells) the story. Doesn’t necessarily have to be the main character. (Like in the Sherlock Holmes stories, where Watson tells the story the way he observes it to be.)

-Minor character: supports main character.

-Foil character: makes the characteristics of main character stand out. Usually has opposite characteristics of main character.

-Impact character: drives the main character forward. Forces the action much like an antagonist. In conflict with main character and uses that to help him/her, or not. Can be friend or enemy.
There is also explicit/direct characterisation, which is when the author actually tells the reader what a character is like through description by narrator/character.

Implicit/indirect characterisation is my favourite kind because that is when the reader finds out for himself what a character is like through the actions/thoughts/speech/interactions of a character. Since I’m a big fan ofshow, don’t tell, this is (in my eyes) the best way of describing a character. Also, as a reader I find this is the best way of getting to know a character. But again, I like figuring people out.

For me, I’ve never had much trouble putting down three-dimensional people on paper. And when I had, it was because I was linking the wrong person to the wrong story. Or the right person to the wrong story? You know what I mean.

There’s either the idea of a story which I then link with an appropriate character, or it’s the other way around. However, when I find my characters a little flat, it helps to inflate them with a secret (relating to other characters or the plot, or just themselves) that only I know. Something you might never mention or hint at in the story, but that still helps you show depth. I also like one quirky thing about my characters, especially with regard to fears. For instance, a deep-rooted fear of tennis balls.

There are writers who like to work with long lists that explore their tastes, dislikes, what shoes they wear, etc. I don’t like to think of details like that, unless they are actually mentioned in the story. I have an overall view of the character. The way you feel you know someone well, even though you don’t know many facts about them or know them that long. And based on that I know how they react to situations and characters.

There are two golden rules to remember: show, don’t tell and less is more. Hinting at things and being subtle is the best thing to do. You know how they say that a picture is worth a thousand words. It’s something like that. One small gesture, a look or one sentence can usually say a lot about that person, just like with real people. The benefit of fake people is that you can be smart, sneaky and creative with how you introduce more about them. Also, they don’t talk back.

I suppose for everyone it is different and I’m curious to learn how other writers handle characterisation. So, grab a chair and some biscuits while I put the kettle on. ^_^

Theme

17 May

To discover a theme in an existing book is challenging enough, but to find one for your own story, well, that’s like extinguishing a fire with a handkerchief. The theme expresses a universal message and I’ve been taught that a theme is very important. You need to know what you want to say with your story, even if a book isn’t literary fiction, or maybe especially then.

There is a difference between the subject of a book and the theme. A subject is what it’s about, while a theme is about what you want to say with your story. A subject can be: loneliness. A theme can be: loneliness is just a state of mind. You then use your story to prove your theme. That is why a theme is a good thing to have, it keeps you on track and reminds you of why you are writing your story.

That is easier with literary fiction, because that usually deals with universal dilemmas, but what if you want to write a different genre, what if you just want to write something light and fun? What if the story just dropped in your lap without a yellow post-it that tells you the theme?

With me, usually the story comes without a clear idea of its theme and I never used to think about it. Until I learned that the theme is really important, it’s the soul of the story. And even if a story is written because it’s cool or fun, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a theme. Every story has a theme, but it doesn’t always explore it or say something about it. And that’s the difference between a fun book and a good book.

So now, when a fun story comes to me—as they so often do—I write down what the characters are struggling with and make that into a subject and then into a statement about that subject. And then I make sure I prove that statement with my story. It sounds easier than it is. Especially since most of the time, but especially with the first draft, I just want to get the story written. I follow the scent in my brain that leads me to the ending. Where my reward is cheese. Hmm, cheese. But at the end of that maze I want to be able to look back and see that I’ve written something with substance. When I wrote a lot of poetry during my teen years, I always had a message in my poems, so why not with my stories? I have plenty to say and I would love to be able to reach out to people and make them think and debate. After all, isn’t that one of the wonders of books?

With theme also comes symbolism, because symbolism is a great way of hinting at your theme. For instance, if your theme relates to freedom, you could use birds to represent freedom. Also, buildings can represent strength. Darkness can represent evil. Flames/fire can represent anger, etc. Symbolism is fun, because it’s like you’re winking at the reader. And who doesn’t like being winked at? Well, unless it’s a creepy wink, but that’s not the case here. So feel free to wink at your reader all you want and throw some symbolism in your story cauldron, along with the theme. 😉

 

 

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