I got the incredible opportunity to have a class with Wayne Thomas Batson, when I went to the YW Workshop in Minneapolis. It just so happened that he was speaking about theme, which has always been a tricky subject for me. I don’t want to throw it blatantly at my readers, but I still want it to easily found. So, here are some of the tips I learned!
I can’t remember who quoted this (sorry, whoever you are), but she defined theme as this:
(Theme) is a transcending truth that echoes deeply in the human soul.
I thought that so perfectly described what theme is (in a much prettier way then I could’ve described it. XD )
There are many reasons we like seeing themes in stories:
- It helps you connect with the readers – For me, I really felt deeply for the characters in the Tales of Goldstone Wood series. I saw the author’s beliefs clearly, but it was done in such a way that it didn’t disrupt the story.
- The story becomes timeless – Good themes transcend time! If you write them right, they’ll stay with you for years. *ahem*The Chronicles of Narnia.*ahem*
- It can teach hard lessons – One of my favorite ways to learn is by reading. Even the hard stuff is easier to swallow if it’s done in an entertaining way.
- You, as the writer, can make a difference through theme – Not only can you connect with your readers, you can inspire them, maybe even change them for the better.
However, there are two things that you most definitely should not do when writing theme:
- DON’T smother your reader with the message! That’s not the best way to get your point across, and most of your readers will probably put the book down.
- DON’T use the story as a prop for the message. No matter how meaningful and deep your theme is, your story must still be good in order to keep your reader interested.
The area I struggle most with is figuring out what lesson exactly I want to share in my story. Writing from your passions is definitely the best way. What do you believe strongly in? What breaks your heart? What makes you so joyful you could soar? Use those as the base for your theme. Because if you’re passionate about something, chances are, that will come out in your writing.
Finally, here are 6 ways to incorporate theme into your story:
This is when the main character, or another of your characters actually says (or thinks) the theme, so the reader sees it plainly. This can be difficult to pull off, as it can come off as really…cheesy.
This is when one of your characters does something that the readers knows (or doesn’t know until later on!) is a mistake, thus learning from the opposite inference. Make sure your reader is aware that the ‘mistake’ is wrong. If you don’t make it obvious, it could spell out a bad message.
Ah, my favorite! This is similar to mistakes, but instead of learning by opposite inference, the reader learns by watching your character learn and grow over time. I think this adds so much depth to a character and it allows me a chance to dive deeper into my characters personality, which is always fun. 🙂
This one can be also be cheesy, but sometimes it’s done really well. Just take Gandalf for instance. I personally haven’t used this way of incorporation, mostly because I don’t think I could pull it off, but wise, elder-type characters can be super fun to write. ^_^
Purposeful character traits
This is when a character is given a positive (or negative) trait and the reader either learns by inferring the opposite (negative) or by learning by example (positive). This is kind of similar to character growth and character mistakes, but on a little smaller scale, with one defining trait that the character struggles with or has throughout the course of the story.
This is when the author includes an important object/memory/thing that stands for a meaningful idea. As it keeps getting mentioned, the reader comes to learn that it’s important, and then it can be used to get a point across, making it all the more powerful to the reader. This one might a little tougher to incorporate, but it’s a very interesting thing to explore.
Well, those are my thoughts! Thanks to Wayne for the great class! 😀 How do you guys incorporate theme into your writing? Do you think it’s important to have in stories? Let me know down below!