Theme Happens

I’m continuing my study on theme in the hopes that I’ll actually understand it once I’m done writing several blog posts about it. Larry Brooks started me down this path with his book  Story Engineering: Mastering the Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing. 

Deep in the heart of the chapter about theme, Mr. Brooks says this: “You can’t write about life experience without saying something about life’s experiences. When a story is strong enough, when a character is deep enough, and when the conceptual landscape is universal and accessible, theme happens.”

Huh. After reading that, I figured I’m in hot water. A theme will just happen in my story if it’s strong enough, if the character is deep enough, when all this other gunk is universal and accessible? How do I know if I did it right? How do I know if it’s deep enough? What does accessible mean?

Thankfully, Mr. Brooks went on: “Sometimes this works, sometimes not. The more you want your story to say something specific about life and the world in which it unfolds, the more you can’t rely on this organic emergence of theme.”

Whew! Brooks then said it’s like flying an airplane. I can understand how the plane gets off the ground, but I wouldn’t be able to fly one if someone handed me the controls. I’ve got to learn how to create/build theme. I need “a working knowledge of theme implementation,” says Brooks.

The good news: it can be learned. 

The bad news: I’m not there yet.


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