Welcome back readers and fellow bloggers! I’m excited to bring another important topic to the table as part of my Lessons to Practice series: Theme.
There. I said it. The word that, for so many of us, has been a source of interminable torment and head bashing. My thinking, however, is that theme can be explored and discussed in so many inspiring ways – without all the doldrums.
Theme is, after all, the core of every story that we will ever read, write, or imagine. It’s such an important facet, in fact, that Paula Munier dedicated her first chapter of Plot Perfect to theme alone. “By stating your theme right at the beginning, you tell your readers — and remind yourself — what your story is really about.” At the end of the day, our writing can only leave a lasting impression on readers if our themes are strong, concise, and clear. Without a strong take-home message, our story simply cannot have enough heft in its conflict or intrigue in its characters.
Does all this significance on a single term mean that theme is complicated? Absolutely not! In Writing with Quiet Hands, Paula explains that theme is all around us and within us: in our personal experiences, our daily grind, and our aspirations and secret admirations. Theme comes directly from all that we fantasize about, or grow resentful towards, or outright balk at out of fear. In essence, we don’t have to look any further than our own selves to determine which themes matter the most to us.
Some common themes are as follows:
– The struggle with one’s self
–Man’s fear of the unknown
I love Silent Hill 2, for it is a video game that has layers of profound psychological themes tightly interwoven in an insidious horror story. James Sunderland travels to the quaint lakeside resort town after receiving a letter from his dead wife, Mary, who pleads with him to come back to their “special place” and find her.
Silent Hill 2 is a horror epic in which our protagonist comes face to face with his greatest demons. The town is a metaphor for the mystery of James’ relationship with his wife, who was ill for many months before she passed away. Terrifying manifestations of the hell that Mary and James endured are everywhere: nurses become pipe-wielding monstrosities with bobbing bloodied heads, a mysterious woman named Maria alternates between seducing and berating James for not taking care of her, and prisoners from an era long passed leave James cryptic messages around the gallows about persecution and absolving themselves of their guilt. As you can probably tell, all of these motifs represent the larger themes, which entail persecution and absolution, love versus lust, and the terrifying nature of discovering absolute truth.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a sucker for a story that is rich in thematic elements, whether they be psychological or political. Theme is the big picture of our narratives; there’s simply no other way to put it. To discover it, just remember to look no further than the motives that propel you to write.
Thank you for taking the time to read my Lessons to Practice! What are your thoughts on theme? Do your dreams and demons play a big role in your stories? Comment below and let me know. And remember: you are always in control of your story’s thematic elements! Just like the dog in Silent Hill 2, hehe.