Posts Tagged ‘theme’

Remembering Theme When Lost

Good afternoon, Squiders! We’ll start our next nonfic topic about coming up with ideas and expanding them into something workable next week. I still need to finish outlining the topic before we get started.

But, while we’re talking about that, I’m setting up a new list for authors who’d like to get writing tips and advice in their inbox. You can join here. I’m still tailoring it, so if you’d like to see specific things, let me know!

Now, onto theme. You guys know I’ve been working on rewriting the first book of a fantasy trilogy. It was going okay, but about a month ago it fell apart again. Part of that was from getting ready for the conference, but it hasn’t gotten better. Admittedly it’s been harder to get writing time the last few weeks (though that should be done now) but even when I could have been potentially writing, I’ve been avoiding it.

(Unless it’s been unrelated, such as working on query letters or whatnot.)

It’s been very disheartening. In fact, this morning, I set a deadline for switching to another project if I can’t get my act together.

But I still dragged myself to a coffee shop with the intent of getting something done. And I opened my draft. And I re-read what I have of the current chapter. And then I thought I might go back and re-read what I have of the draft (about 48K) to try and help give me some idea where I was going, despite my outline and the fact that I did that last week (and it obviously didn’t help).

And then my laptop died (the battery’s shot, so if I accidentally knock the power cord it turns off) so I had a few minutes to stare at thin air while it got its act together, and I decided I should go back and look at my theme for the story.

The theme is something along the lines of “Be true to yourself.” Both of the main characters’ internal conflicts stem from this theme, and their gradual acceptance of it is pivotal to the completion of the plot arc over the three books.

And just by reminding myself what my theme was, I started to get some ideas about where to go.

I think that it’s easy to get lost in the middle of the draft, especially since right now I’m in new territory that hasn’t existed in previous drafts. And sometimes, reminding yourself of the point, of why you’re writing something, can be enough to help you re-center.

So hopefully this will be enough to get me back on track.

(While going back through my notes, however, I also noticed that a major subplot has been somewhat dropped. I mean, it’s still in there, but the pacing is off on it. So I think my first order of business is to go back through what I have and fix the pacing on it, which should make where I am–the midpoint–flow appropriately. Without this subplot, one of the major reversals can’t happen, which is, quite frankly, probably leading to a lot of the issues I’m currently experiencing.)

What helps you when your story feels like it’s running into a brick wall, Squiders?

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Broken Promises

(Aha, I automatically typed one of my titles above instead of what I meant.  Whoops.  Guess I’ve been working on that project a little too much lately.)

One thing I’ve come across a couple of times in workshops and classes is the idea of making promises to your reader.  A promise is something that the reader infers that you need to follow through on or you risk their disappointment.

Promises vary from the very small – give an object or a character too much description and a reader will assume they’re important – to the large, encompassing things such as theme and genre.

When you start a project, there’s some hint of the overall promise from the very beginning.  If your first chapter/blurb imply a humorous, comedic romp but, in the end, you deliver a tale of betrayal and darkness, you’ve broken your promise.  I’m not saying you have to give things away at the beginning, but you do need something so the readers are inferring the proper things.

As an example, I recently finished a paranormal novel.  The beginning was amazing, full of hints of ghosts and black magic, but then it settled into a fairly straight forward family mystery.  I won’t lie, I was disappointed.  The promises the beginning gave me were never fulfilled, and overall my experience was unsatisfactory.

Some of it is directly related to genre.  A romance is supposed to have a happy ending.  Take that out, and the readers feel cheated.  There’s a reason they’re reading what they are.  If you’re well-read in your genre, you’ll know what that genre promises, so hopefully that won’t be as big of an issue.  It can be harder in other areas.  If your first chapter is laugh-out loud funny, people are going to expect that humor to be prevalent throughout the entire story.  If you spend time describing the creepy house down the street, people are going to expect that house to be important to the plot.

Luckily, this can be a tool in your arsenal.  Writing a mystery?  Red herrings are just false promises.  The mere act of adding some description can cause an item to stick in a readers head.  Compare “the black book” to “an aged tome covered in blackened skin.”

How are you doing on your promises?  Do you find them hard to keep track of?