Monday, August 26, 2013

Listening for Your Story's Theme by Naomi Musch

Naomi Musch
Hey, writers! Do you use your writer's ear as you write? Naomi Musch tells us how listening and story theme go together. Read on!

Listening for Your Story's Theme 
by Naomi Musch
How well do you tune your writer's ear to hear your story's themes trying to emerge as your write? Novelists who pay attention while writing their stories notice wisps that float by their consciences as emerging themes. When I begin to write a book, I set out knowing something of its main theme. That theme depends upon the larger story question—mostly. If the story is about someone who's been betrayed, the theme may be one of loyalty. If the story is about someone unable to adjust to change, the theme may be about spontaneity coupled with wisdom. But further themes deepen with the writing if I don't let them escape my notice.

In my new release Paint Me Althena I wanted to know, "If a woman abandons her family to figure out who she is, and if she even lands in another relationship but lives to regret it, will her husband's trust be broken too deeply for her to ever go back again? Would it just be better for him and the kids to move on rather than handle the wreckage she created?"

The theme became one of grace and of the possibility for second chances in the face of deepest rejection. But that's not all. In the search for the larger story, I had to ask why she left in the first place, and that took me to another theme, one of her poor self-image. What kind of things might a young woman resort to doing in order to flee the person she thinks she is, without knowing whom she wants to be? Self-image, hope, rebirth, forgiveness—all these and more became smaller themes woven into the big picture.

But we don't just arrive at theme by asking story questions. Sometimes God speaks to us of themes He wants us to explore. That means we have to train our writers' ear to hear Him. We might be counseling a friend or family member when God reveals a theme, because when it comes down to it, themes are really those big life issues that we all deal with. They usually emerge when we come face to face with them in a crisis. 
Themes might tinkle on our ears during our Bible reading or while listening to a sermon. This happens to me a lot. Every great story in the Bible is full of themes meant for our instruction. How might some of those themes apply to our works-in-progress?

Just today I was reading a blog post about being single when suddenly I realized one of the article’s themes would work for my current WIP. Good thing I had my writer's ear tuned, because some of the responses to the post stated exactly what I wanted my character to learn.

We are surrounded by themes. Someone is struggling in their relationship with their grown child. Someone is suffering from a secret addiction. Someone fears losing their home or livelihood. There are story questions and themes in all these situations. 

Universal themes unfold in thousands of stories. Most Christian fiction, for example, is about redemption. Yet the story never grows old, and there are a billion ways to tell it. So listen with your writer's ear and you'll hear your stories' themes speak. 

Paint Me Althena

When still life artist Ethan Day discovers a fantasy painting by Althena Bell in a consignment shop, he's sure he's found Ava, his wife who abandoned him and their two little girls three years ago. Finding and rescuing her are one thing, but forgiveness and second chances are impeded by outsiders, and conflict between Ava's search for identity and Ethan's new faith might break the safety net he offers. 

Naomi Musch writes from the pristine north woods of Wisconsin. She spent five years on the editorial board of the EPA award-winning, Midwestern Christian newspaper, Living Stones News, writing true accounts of changed lives. While pursuing her fiction-writing endeavors, she spent a year as an editor with Port Yonder Press. She continues to enjoy writing for magazines and other non-fiction venues that encourage homeschooling families and young writers, and loves connecting with new friends via:

Twitter: NMusch
Goodreads: Naomi Dawn Musch
Naomi's site and blogs: 

Find the book at Desert Breeze Publishing.