Tips for Young Writers 31: Working with Themes

This tip really comes from acclaimed teacher and author, John Gardner, but I find it super helpful, so I hope you do too.

Art of Fiction by John GardnerI read this book a while back and found it fascinating, but the part that really stood out to me was what the author said about working with themes in a novel. So I thought I’d share it …

“Theme is not imposed on a story, it is evoked from within. Initially it’s intuitive, but ultimately it’s intellectual. The writer muses on the story idea to determine what has attracted them to the idea – why it was worth telling. Once that idea has been found, the writer then infuses it into every image in the story – using it to select one detail over others. Turn the idea over and over, finding every possible dimension of it (physical, psychological, spiritual) and it’s opposite in order to find connections within the story. It’s not important to draw a ‘conclusion’ about the theme during the denouement. This would probably come across as contrived or sentimental.”



November 12, 2014

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