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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Overview Character Development: Theme

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

“Theme is your melody, the motive, the dominant idea you develop through your story. This is what the story is about.”  Lee Wyndam


As mentioned last week the traditional stories have been handed down from generation to generation, first orally and later many were put into print. They include proverbs, parables, wisdom stories, creation, family heritage, cultural, songs, fairy tales, and folk-tales.

One surprise is that this workshop section we are discussing character development and when we revisit the powerful traditional stories we often find that many rely on stock characters, especially the folktales and parables. The characters are called by their class name only—beautiful daughter, poor woodcutter, banished prince. The characters are usually familiar and predictable to their audience, which frees the listeners to concentrate on action and ideas.

This opens the relationship of theme to action and often a discovery about universal human yearnings. Sometimes the connection was subtle and sometimes blatant. Jesus often used this style in His own teaching, and His parables always had an unexpected end from the one His listeners expected. They were still stories though, not didactic teachings, which made them so powerful. His themes were implicit within the story and its twist would continue to effect the listener long after.

The other power of theme in the basic stock characters was the strong cultural base common to traditional genres. Yet within each culture there usually would be an identifiable emotional connection/resonance. Even when the end turned out to be unexpected the historical and personal resonance would be familiar enough to capture the listener’s attention.

So how can we borrow that concept along with developing ‘real’ characters? Aim for the heart thematically. Make it integral to your story question.

Betrayal                        What happens when your best friend tells all your
                                                to the school gossip?


The idea that holds the story together, the central idea, or main meaning must contain the theme. Then the truth behind the story will last long after the characters/events of the story are forgotten.
Think again about some stories you remember that made you laugh or cry or create a hunger in you. Which books do you re-read? Why?

Not set up as a moral or a lesson—more we read and discover that not only have we been entertained, but our understanding has been enlarged, and we have made a discovery of some kind. (Lukens)

Explicit themes

Are stated openly and clearly, for example Wilbur says, “Friendship is one of the most satisfying things in the world.”

Implicit themes

Are underlying, or revealed through the readers’ perception, for example, White’s implicit theme is that friendship can be found in unexpected places.

Multiple Themes

Every story usually has a primary theme but there can be multiple themes alongside if appropriate. They too can be either explicit or implicit. For example, in Charlotte’s Web a secondary theme is death.

            Usually the secondary themes are linked to the primary themes such as good vs evil, especially in fantasy and sci-fi which have much more space to include multiple concepts.

As you are reading books in the genre and age category you are most interested in make a note of whether the themes you notice fall under universal themes, personal themes, or author themes. Each theme can be explored in many facets because each character and situation will be different.  So each story is fresh in spite of incorporating well-known themes.

Action Steps:
1. Choose from hope, love, faith, trust, beauty and do a cluster or mapping.

2. Then take your word and make a list poem: hope is…. Or I believe beauty… .
3. When you finish your list poem go down your list and see if you can turn each line into a metaphor.

For example: hope is ...a waterfall.
/ Hope is a waterfall like rushing wind.

                                                / Hope is an hourglass waterfall.


4. Brainstorm possible one-line summaries like the opening that support some suggested themes below given by Story Sparkers (cannot find my source reference)

—trust, differences/individualism, competition, friendship, fear, bravery/heroism, conflict, sacrifice, loss, change, honor.

                                    Try doing a few for different age categories.

Share: What one-line summary or metaphor did you like the best?

Read deep, marcy

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"The Seeker" Rachel Marks | Content Copyright Marcy Weydemuller | Site by Eagle Designs
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