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  1. #1
    Otto Rabe
    Guest

    To Theme or not to Theme

    Hey All,

    I am a fan of Terry Goodkind's writing and have read on his web-site his approach to writing Fantasy. A comment he makes over and over again is the "Theme" of his book. The theme guides his writing and plays a persistent overwatch for every effort.

    OK - super writers of genious, this man sold thirteen books in over 20 countries, totaling 40 mil in book sales. Every book landed on the NYT Bestsellers list, most at #1 for some period of time.

    Gulliver (or anybody) - write to this and help me understand how incorporating Theme in writing is bad. Did you mean writing the theme vrs story-telling theme?

    Work with me!!!

    Otto

  2. #2
    Mark Phillips
    Guest

    Re: To Theme or not to Theme

    Well, I don't know about Terry Goodkind, but I know that I don't write with theme in mind. Theme writing (to me) is for novelists that would much rather be writing master's thesi (thesis'?, thesis's?, who the hell knows?). When I write a book, I don't outline, I don't plot, I just write. When I'm done and am going over what I've written, I look for theme though. I always find it, too, even though I didn't spend much time thinking about it. See, I believe that if you write with theme in mind you'll hit your audience over the head with it so hard that it'll sound preachy. They'll put the book down and never forgive you. However, each one of my books (no matter what the genre) all have some sort of idea that I'm trying to get across. So, when I edit, I tease out little bits of the theme here and there and work it into the story. Never forget, the story is the boss. Job one is to tell an interesting story, and it shouldn't take a back seat to theme or anything else.

    Just my opinion

    Mark

  3. #3
    Beautiful Loser
    Guest

    Re: To Theme or not to Theme

    <http://www.learner.org/interactives/literature/read/theme2.html>

    gulliver, are you out there?

  4. #4
    Simon Says
    Guest

    Re: To Theme or not to Theme

    I agree with Mark but I disagree with him as well.

    I agree you don't want to sound preachy and I too sometimes begin writing without clarity of my theme, and I discover it as I write and flesh it out in future drafts.

    But ultimately I think that theme and story go hand in hand - they're co-leaders as it be. When you get down to the nitty gritty of rewriting you need what you write to serve your theme as much as you need it to serve the story. A good story is not a good story unless it has a theme.

    I've read thousands of unproduced screenplays over the years - and I have never found a script that worked that didn't have a well defined theme.

    I think one of the hardest things about writing drama is to dramatize theme as opposed to stating it. Some writers innately and subconsciously are able to weave story and theme together. But few have this gift. Many writers do have a theme in mind, but often don't realize that they do and lack the tools to flesh it out.

    And there are tools that can help you explore your theme through story and character.

  5. #5
    Wonky
    Guest

    Re: To Theme or not to Theme

    Just don't beat the reader over the head with your theme.

  6. #6
    Beautiful Loser
    Guest

    Re: To Theme or not to Theme

    Well said, Simon. Thank you.

    Next...

  7. #7
    Mark Phillips
    Guest

    Re: To Theme or not to Theme

    No Simon, I agree with you. My only point (other than the ones you already made) was that the story comes first. It's the good idea that gets you rolling. I agree that them and story are equally important. But story shouldn't suffer because of theme (or vise versa). As you said, the two should be intertwined. To me, story is the fun of a book. It's the thing that gets a reader interested and excited. Theme is the heart, it's what stays with the reader long after the book has been put down.

    Mark

  8. #8
    Anthony Ravenscroft
    Guest

    Re: To Theme or not to Theme

    Otto, the short answer is that you're not Goodkind. Write a good novel first & don't put effort into building your legacy until you've got something to put in the time-capsule.

  9. #9
    gulliver h
    Guest

    Re: To Theme or not to Theme

    Writing with anything in mind: theme, metaphor, allusion, imagery, tropes, etc....is just a recipe for writing something that will make people want to smack you over the head with a saucepan. Unless you're in 8th grade English class.

    Readers are smart. Don't TELL them what you want them to think; let them find it. And don't tell an agent all the fantastic stuff you've seeded into it for their edification either; it will annoy everyone. Just don't.

    Write a story. A good story. If there are brilliant meaningful things for people to find, they'll find them, belive me. You won't have to POINT THEM OUT.

    And, think about it, if you have to, and with a sledgehammer...then what does that mean?

  10. #10
    Johnny Kid
    Guest

    Re: To Theme or not to Theme


    Just a voice in the crowd here but I couldn’t agree more with Gulliver. Here’s a quote I pulled from a publishers weekly review of Chainfire on Amazon,

    “Even fans will be disappointed by the minimal action and lengthy speeches that slow this juggernaut of a novel to a tedious crawl.”

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/076...d_i=B000IOF3XC

    And if you browse around a bit, you’ll find the hundreds of fans that are in full scale revolt over how preachy his books have become.

    Goodkind didn’t start out that way and “theme” is one of the reasons I personally left his tombs alone. It seems that you can get away with that after you’re established but I just can’t see agents trusting this approach with a new writer.

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