Happy Wednesday, my writing friends,
Today we finish up our three-part series on theme. In part one we mulled over how a well-defined theme boosts a story from a way to fill an afternoon to a life-changing experience.
In part two, we dove into how to find a theme by first uncovering what moves us and then having a heart-to-heart with our characters.
Now we’ll explore how to weave theme through plot. It’s so important!
Planning the Big Picture
As I plan my story's overarching plot arcs, the main pegs parallel theme. If my theme is forgiveness, for example, then the main conflicts reflect this. Perhaps my character was betrayed by her husband. My main plot points could be:
Act One: At least one or two major conflict scenes with her husband. The pressure heats up.
End of Act One: A big fight in which she declares she’ll never forgive him. Ever!
Act Two: The husband’s persistent repentance and patient love begin to win her over.
She finally admits she wants to forgive him but is afraid of being hurt. They share a tender, honest moment together.
End of Act Two: Something happens to make her think he betrayed her again, destroying any hope of reconciliation.
Act Three: The misunderstanding about the betrayal is cleared up, and she finally finds a way to forgive him.
Do you see how each plot point revolved around forgiveness? Subplots and external conflict work their way in, but forgiveness underlies and motivates the main forward thrust of the story.
Scene by Scene
Once I get the big picture done, I start writing. Yippee! But before my fingers fly, I create a chart for each individual scene. (Some writers forge scene charts for the whole book ahead of time, I create it just before I write the scene. It’s up to you.)
In the scene chart, I always (always!) make sure to include an element of theme. Even if the scene doesn't involve a major conflict, a hint of theme resonates. This builds consistency and expectancy.
Let’s go back to our forgiveness story. In the midst of a relevant scene, I might include a short snippet of a child forgiving my protagonist for stepping on her dandelion bouquet. Or maybe she sees a dude cursing out a store clerk for getting his order wrong; or hears a song about reconciliation. These little bits all point toward forgiveness.
Since I’m passionate about my theme, I long for it to ring out in every scene. I prepare for this in my scene charts.
Ban Rabbit Trails
I try my darnedest to toss out any plotline that doesn’t prop up my message. Theme gets blurry when too many other ideas encroach on it. I keep my focus on clearly communicating this one idea that has so moved me, and stay with it. That’s what I love about books with awesome themes, so that’s what I try to do.
How do you incorporate theme into your stories? I’d love to hear!
God bless and happy writing,