07 July 2012

The Symbol of the Theme is Life

How many of us remember the joys of English class in high school? Or Literature class from college/university? Those were the classes where the instructor took a work and tore things out of it like symbolism and theme. They’d deconstruct the story, take away what enjoyment might have rested within its pages.

Okay, so I’m exaggerating a little here.

So why am I poking this particular troll? Depending on how you write (planned or seat of the pants), you’ll have someone ask you about these things. If you have a template you use for planning, it may offer a place for these things. Shoot, my first published piece is being dissected for its symbol-logy by an old professor. They wanted to see if I learned my lessons well.

Here’s the interesting thing.

I don’t think about symbols of theme when I write. I get a good story in my head and I write it. If the story is meant to have symbols in it, they come out with my writing. The theme usually has something to do with the story concept, so to sit and ponder it takes away my writing time. And sometimes, as they say in the movie business, “I’ll fix it in post.” This means I can slip in the symbols I might want or need after the initial story is written.

There is no such thing as a perfect first draft. It is one of the few absolutes I believe when writing. You’ll always find something to change. This doesn’t mean that you’ll be rewriting the entire piece, unless you want to. Just that sometimes a word choice might not seem right, or a sentence might work better combined with another. While making these changes, you can add things for your symbols or other clues. It allows you time to assess your theme, if it runs as a thread through the entire story.

When I do this, I tend to write the story first. When I complete it, I pull out a planning template and fill in the questions based on the present story. This allows me to see if the story drifts too far from beginning to end, what I tried to say, and where I still need work.

It’s something to try if nothing else.

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