Theme

The theme of a story is probably the most important factor of creating a plot. Without a certain theme to follow throughout your story, you will probably end up with one of the most dysfunctional and confusing plots you’d ever seen. The theme of a story gives it direction. It influences every little thing in a story so profusely that it needs to be thought about carefully. The plot and the theme are very closely interrelated. Plot is the word used to describe what happens in the story, the sequence of events that takes the characters through a conflict to a resolution. The theme on the other hand is the overall idea that you as the author are trying to convey though your story. You should always have a set theme to your story to start moulding a plot around it.

The cool thing about the theme of a story is that it shows up though the writing and situations in patterns. Since the theme is often a lesson that we learn about people or life, it needs to have a symbolic meaning that the people reading your story can emotionally connect to or understand.

For example, there are many common themes that reoccur in all literature it has been argued that there is anywhere between 3 to 40 main themes in all literature that continues to be explored by each successive generation of writer – including you. There are many variations of these common themes, as people tend to tweak them to their desired stories. There are some very well-known themes such as;

The Great Journey
This theme follows a character or a group of characters through a series of episodic adventures as they travel. This theme may be used to make a story that is happy, sad or even comedic. (eg. The Odyssey)

Loss of Innocence
Sometimes called the ‘coming of age story’, this kind of theme most commonly introduces and ‘innocent’ character to the evil or complexity of the real/adult world around them.

The Noble Sacrifice
The sacrifice can be for any reason except for self – the character can be rescuing a loved one, and enemy, a group of people, humanity even – but the bottom line is that they are making a sacrifice or sacrificing themselves in an effort to save others.

 The Great Battle
This kind of theme is about people or groups of people in conflict.  It is sometimes a good vs. evil story in a sense. Where the antagonist – a monster/creature/human/alien/computer/etc –  is trying to kill the protagonist, who must fight to stay alive and/or defeat the antagonist.   (Sub-categories would be; person vs. person, person vs. nature, person vs. society, person vs. technology and etc.)

The Fall From Grace
This theme shows us people going where only God should go, doing what only God is meant to do, or attempting to do something that human beings should never do.  This is always followed by misfortune, whether it is the direct result of their action or an act of God.

Love and Friendship
This one is kind of self-explanatory, there is a romance to the story, weather love or platonic such as friendship between two characters. The ending may be happy, sad, or bittersweet, but the main them is always romantic/or platonic love between characters.

The Capriciousness of Fate
The common element is that there is some force guiding the person’s life over which he or she has no control. Greek tragedies fit this category.  Often, there is a major reversal of fortune.  It could be from good-to-bad or from bad-to-good.

Revenge
The direction of the story is focused on getting justice or revenge against the enemy of the story. The subject is fairly obvious, the outcomes can differ – sometimes the outcome is good and sometimes it is not.

The Big Trick
In this one, someone or some group of people intentionally trick someone else. Two really good examples of this theme are the stories Rumplestiltskin and Little Red Riding Hood.

The Big Mystery
Something unexplained happened and it is the protagonist’s job to find an explanation for it. Almost all police and detective dramas work within this form, as do most espionage and spy thrillers. Sherlock Holmes is a good example of this kind of theme.

All of these are just examples of common themes – there are countless others that have been explored by writers.

Advertisements

Setting

It seems that for many writers they firmly believe that the setting is the most important element of any fictional work they create.  There should always be a fair chunk of time given to think about the setting of your story. This sets the stage of your story and even how your characters will react with each other and within their environments. It’s the same concept that’s used by people every day. We are constantly in a setting. They place we live, places we visit, where we feel comfortable, where we don’t – all these kinds of settings affect us.  And in the same way, the characters you create are similarly affected by where they are in a story.

 Without a solidly explained setting a plot can go from a wonderful piece of fiction to something written on a napkin during a delirious flight to California.

There are always limitations when describing the setting of a scene. You need to have a pretty good idea of the mood and the atmosphere you’re trying to create before even describing what colour the leaves on the trees are in your novel. Do you want a warm, light and happy scene? No? Or perhaps something more dark and sinister? You need to make these decisions before writing it out. Describing some of these scenes is actually one of the easy parts of writing about the setting. For example;

‘The trees were green and tall. The grass was neatly cut and rich with
color. The sky was endless blue. The clouds were extremely fluffy today
it seemed.’

This isn’t the best description ever written obviously, but it gets the point across. We know that it was a nice day, everything was green and there were fluffy clouds apparently. But what’s happening? Is there life in that setting? Is this a happy scene or a terrifying one? The writing around the setting will determine this but the description itself is lacking. You should try to fill in more detail about your scene and try to even include your characters to make it come to life. A good way to do this is to use the five senses. It may be a bit basic but it really does help immensely. Touch, taste, sound, smell and sight are ideas to remember while writing about your setting. They are little reminders of what your character is experiencing. You need to remember that they are people too (most of the time) and their senses will be constantly taking in their environment.

Revamping the previous description a bit to include these senses;

‘The trees seemed to reach endlessly into the sky and their wide
branches of green waved overhead, creating cool shady spots on the richly
cut grass. The patches of shade provided a welcomed escape from the
hot sun that was pounding down our backs. Wiping the wet sweat
from my brow, I sucked in a warm breath of air. It tasted faintly like
wildflowers and heat and the air smelled like perspiration. Common
for summer weather around these parts you had heard. Glancing up
into the vast blue sky, I could faintly hear birds around me. With a sign,
I looked up at the powdery masses of clouds above me. It was a nice day.’

Now, that was a brief description of the setting that the reader was a part of. It felt real and tangible, not detached and rushed like the first example. Taking your time to write out a realistic scene is a key component to sucking your reading into the story you’ve created. Appeal to all their senses and emotions and you’re sure to have a good plot on the way.

Plot Plot Plot

This blog will focus on various plot devices that will be sure to make any story worth reading!

We’ll be covering an array of topics that range from setting to dealing with endings.

We hope everyone will find this useful!

– Manpreet, Rachel and Maureen