Your Theme in One Line

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If I could write my thoughts in one line, my first book wouldn’t have been 484 pages. But we are about to learn how to do just that. I guess I should pay close attention and so should you.

Okay, so, our theme line is our view, as the author, of what are right and wrong actions and what those choices do to a person’s life. We aren’t gonna get the flavor of your story in a single line. We know this, but it is valuable because it focuses you to limit the moral element to a singular idea.  This is the seed of the story. This is where the complexity of your story starts. The same designing principle can help you deepen your premise will also help open up the theme. Mr. Truby has offered some examples.

I wish my cabinets looked like this. Sigh…

But first, a fresh cuppa, a nibble for my growling tummy, and the grand rolling out of the reading rug. There is a bowl of apples on the counter, healthy yummies in the fridge, and all the sugar you may want in the cabinet to the right of the refrigerator. Grab what makes you happy on this brisk Monday morning. Don’t forget your copy of The Anatomy of Story by John Truby. We are on page 110-113.

Traveling

A journey is a great foundation for a moral line.

  • Examples: Huck’s journey down the Mississippi is also a trip into the deeper story of slavery.
    • The trip from Manhattan to Skull Island in King Kong represents the move from moral civilization to the savage state of the jungle. In King Kong it shows that both islands are ruled by the most ruthless of individuals, only to find Manhattan is the least civilized of the two.

Single Grand Symbol

This is a singular symbol that means so much and carries throughout the plot.

  • Examples: In the Scarlet Letter, it is the A Hester Prynne must wear as a symbol of her actions. She is punished and scorned for her immoral acts by the townspeople while they hide their own crimes.
    • In For Whom the Bell Tolls, the symbol is death. The bell tolls for death but the question is for whom.
    • My example: Harry Potter’s lightning bolt scar. It shows survival, the ability to overcome, and not being limited in life based on your beginning.

The Connection of Two Grand Symbols in a One-Line Process

This represents two poles in a moral story. When this method is used it typically represents declining morality, but don’t limit yourself to this. The easiest way to use this would be to have your MC take a journey dealing with a daunting symbol. Idea- a Jew running from a concentration camp while trying to hide their tattoo. These are two powerful themes- a journey and a symbol placed together to form the connection.

Designing Principle Examples

Units of time, the use of a storyteller, even the unique way a story unfolds can help clarify your theme.

  • Back to what we know- Harry Potter:
    • Designing principle- A young magician learns to be a man and a leader by attending a school for sorcerers over seven years.
      • Theme: When you have great talent and power, you must learn to lead and sacrifice for the betterment of others.
  • Meet Me in St. Louis:
    • Designing Principle- the growth of a family over the course of a year is shown by events of all four of the seasons.
      • Theme: Sacrificing for your family is more important than personal glory.
  • A Christmas Carol: The rebirth of a man by forcing him to revisit pivotal moments of his past, present, and future all on Christmas Eve.
    • Theme: A person lives a happier and more fulfilled life when he/she/ they give to others.

How are we all doing today? Please, during this horrible time of lockdowns and safety procedures, remember to check in on your friends, family, neighbors, and especially the elderly. Offer to pick up things at the market for them. Chat with them over the fence. Make sure they know they aren’t alone in all of this. You aren’t alone either. That is my PSA for the day.

Up next we will take a journey through Splitting the Theme into Oppositions, The Hero’s Moral Code, and maybe Characters as Variations on a Theme. We shall see.

Until then…

Please remember that I am not trying to write this book for you word for word. I am skipping a lot of detail. I highly suggest you purchase the book and read between the lines.

Polish your sparkle and keep twirling.

Find joy. Be joy. Enjoy.

I’m always looking for new friends!

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Published by Ticia Rani

I am...interesting. I am a writer, dreamer, mom, wife, veteran, friend, villain, and the wearer of many hats, but I don't look good in hats- go figure. I LOVE TO WRITE. I want to tell stories. I want to make you laugh, cry, and scare the crap out of you, and make you ask "why the hell did you do that?" I want to make you cheer my characters on or want to shake the crap out of them for things they say and/or do. I want to bring you along for the ride. Ready? Set?...READ!!!

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