Ask me what the theme of a book is and I’m going to stare blankly for a moment. It doesn’t matter if it is something I am reading or something I am writing, I am a do-er. Generally the first thing that I identify is plot. Or character. Theme may come into play only after a full draft has been completed.
But The Plot Whisperer plays with theme in Chapter 4. Heck, I don’t even have a plot outline. It all feels a little odd. Ah, well. What could it hurt to give it a try.
Alderson instructs Plot Whisperer readers to get out a big piece of paper and draw an oval in the center. Do you know the theme of your book? She doesn’t mean Family or Honor. She wants your well-developed, well-thought-out sentence. Don’t have it yet? No worries. Just start writing thematic words and phrases that have to do with your book.
As you do this, says Alderson, you are going to identify groupings of ideas. Can you use these to develop your specific theme?
Okay, I can do this. Not that I can bring myself to write it on paper. My common ideas wouldn’t be grouped together. It would be . . . gasp . . . messy. Anyone who has ever seen my desk is probably rolling on the floor. But in my defense, I put myself through college creating graphics for archaeological reports. Messy graphics, even brain storming, will distract me from actually brainstorming. I have to know an easy clean up is in sight. So I did it in Adobe Illustrator because I could just scoot things around as needed. And boy oh boy did I need to clean up the graphic (see the final at right).
My OCD tendencies aside, I did discover something about my theme. My theme is the idea that Family is more than people and estate/shared belongings. It isn’t history although it is shaped by history. It is shared values and can change over time. What I found playing with this is that there are both Positive and Negative aspects to this theme. Moving my character from negative to positive will not only bring about a thematic arc in my story, it will also fuel the character’s emotional arc. Woo-hoo! Definitely a worthwhile exercise.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to see what Alderson wants me to do next.