I've been wanting to write this post since the workshop I recently took on How to Write a Series, hosted by the wonderful fantasy-writer Jennifer Fallon. There was a lot of information in this workshop, but as I usually do, I hone in one thing. Theme. I've come to see this is a week spot for me.
Jennifer explains that theme should drive your story, it should be the first thing you tell people in your elevator pitch when asked, 'So, what's your story about?'
Heck, I thought that was what premise was for. Premise is different from theme. Premise is the breakdown of what happens in your story. A one sentence synopsis. Theme is the message behind your story - what are you really trying to show people, exampled by your characters' journey?
It finally hit me while I was watching 'Forrest Gump' the other night. The premise is demonstrating how a young man can overcome any adversity and succeed in life despite physical and mental handicaps, no matter how much people underestimate him. The theme is more important. Lucky for me the themes are actually stated in this movie:
- Stupid is as stupid does.
- Life is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get.
And the unstated theme for me was; people die, love does not.
For my tween novel Dog Show Detective, my themes are easy, 'identity can be misleading', and 'Believing in yourself can lead to surprising results'. I'm struggling a little more with the themes of 'The Costume Maker'. I know it's based on prejudice, fear and identity - I just have to work a little harder to articulate that into a clear message. In the meantime, I've just started reading:
And today I'm off to attend a workshop on Creating Colourful Characters.