Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Question from the E-mail
Jude St. Onge is a man on the run. He is an addict who has stolen a large cache of drugs from Detroit drug kingpin Mitchell Parson, who is determined to retrieve the drugs and take his revenge on Jude. After the torture slaying of Jude’s wife, and the kidnapping of Jude’s daughter, Angelina, the last thing Mitchell Parson expected to hear when he picked up the phone was: “I have your sons.” Raymond Little, with a murder conviction in his past, and newspaper reporter Ted Rogers have become unusual allies with Jude in an attempt to rescue his daughter.
Question from the e-mail:
Monday's blog brought up the old question about what comes first, plot, or theme? What do you think about that? And how do YOU define a theme, anyway?
My answer is that themes are based on the writer's own internal belief system and will be inherent in your work, whether you plan to show it, or not. Because internal themes are often based on what is important to the writer, many authors have been accused of writing the same book over and over mostly because they have similar themes.
Years ago, my face-to-face students looked at me as if I had sprouted warts when I said, "Fiction has to hold real truth." and "Nobody can tell your truth, but you." But, basically that's what I believe. All fiction (yes, even daffy romances) must have something to say (i.e. a loving commitment is a life blessing).
The key for any writer, is to figure out what he or she wants to say. That's your theme. How you get it across is a matter of technique, and a matter of telling your shared truth in a way that only you can tell it. For instance, "Cinderella" says "Love conquers all." I doubt it really did. I'll bet Cindy would have had a big mother-in-law problem. But in the story, love conquered all and that can be summed up in one line. If you can't one-line the theme, it usually means you're not focused enough on what the story really says.
Let's pick some themes for famous books and characters:
ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (or any of the titles): Good vs. Evil using the method of scientific deduction, of course. In Doyle's sci fi his characters were quite different, but the good vs. evil theme was the same.
HUCKLEBERRY FINN. "Slavery is evil an' ther ain't much value to grammar neither."
MOBY DICK. Obsession can cost you everything.
Scarlett O'Harra from GONE WITH THE WIND. "I'll Cry Tomorrow." Indeed almost the whole story comes out of Scarlet's character's need to live in the moment and do what was best for herself without regard for anyone else.
OLIVER TWIST. Poverty is not an appealing state and finding a way out of it, is a challenge.
I think any author's themes come from his deep subconscious. And though he or she might write many different books and stories most will have a similar theme.
So what is Stephen King's theme? Face your challenges, no matter how grueling. And he does give out some grueling challenges, doesn't he?