Saturday, April 02, 2011

Looking At Theme (part two)

An imaginary conversation to further develop the earlier post. Before reading this, you might want to check out Looking At Theme

     The first author shook his head.
     "Maybe theme is something to consider if you're writing 'literary' work, but I write genre."
     I mulled over the statement and responded, "Why should genre writing be exempt from development of theme as a major component of the writing?"
     "Because people don't necessarily want to be bogged down thinking about what something is about," someone countered. "Because people want a story. They want something to happen. If you have interesting characters, and people care about them, and they are doing something, then who cares about theme. As long as the action is kept going, people are happy."
     "All stories have theme, even if the theme is buried. Even if it is unintentional," I said. "I'm just suggesting the work is stronger when the author is working with theme in mind."
     "All stories have theme? What about Twilight?" someone asked with a snarky tone.
     "The theme is about the difficulty of the outsider. Bela is an outsider, the vampires are outsider within the greater society, both because of their behavior and their innate status. There are subthemes there as well, such as man's separation from nature, the intolerance of people for those different from themselves..."
     Someone laughed.
     "Maybe the weakness of Twilight as a narrative, and its lack of durability as literature, is because the themes I just mentioned aren't planned and don't work together as a whole. It's a mire of themes, but they're there, and they obviously speak to the reader, considering the sales."
     "What about movies? What about Iron Man II?"
     "It's about how members of one generation sometimes pay for the sins of their fathers, it's about the dangers of excess and the danger of power without responsibility."
     "With great power comes great responsibility," someone said. "Spiderman."
     "What about Get Me To The Greek? The one with Russell Brand? It's just a goofy comedy."
     "It's about the personal price we pay when we surrender integrity for gain. It's also about the cost of excess, the importance of friendship, and the shallowness of society where there are no checks and balances on behavior."


Joe Ponepinto said...

Really well said, Stewart. Just because the audience doesn't recognize theme doesn't mean it isn't there or hasn't made an impression on the reader/viewer. I do cringe, however, thinking that some people who decide to write are not cognizant of that fact.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Thank you, Joe. I also cringe..and include a spasm or two.

MKeaton said...

Thank you, Sensai! It's about damn time someone talked about the craft and theme especially. Kay Kenyon is the only other writer I know who prioritizes theme (even above plot and character although it's all a symbiosis). If you can't articulate your theme, you're not doing your job as a writer.

Again, thank you. This is a service that needs done and I'm glad you're doing it.