Monday, August 26, 2013

Where Themes Come from

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Practicing the craft of writing every day is as important as reading books to engage the imaginative and artistic faculty on a daily basis. Daily writing tones and prunes the skills of a writer to perfection. The internet has no shortage in the number of ‘How-to’ pages. They will tell you how to write a story, a book, a love letter, or even a computer code. Perhaps, there is a ‘How-to’ page on how to find themes for your stories, or articles, or poems as well. I am not concerned about those sites, here. However, what I do feel concerned about is a website that might tell you where to find your themes.

If they had a webpage that drives you through all the mysterious processes, the alchemy of transforming the mundane into the sublime, I am done with. The theme or the main subject of any literary work is the key element in this alchemy. Without a central theme to blow life into it, a story, article, or poem is just a bunch of words, connected at the whim of a lunatic. Art relies mostly on not just the medium of artistry, but also, for the most part on what is being told through the medium. And this article is all about finding themes. So if there exists a webpage that tells you about where to find them, I had better shoot myself.

Where do themes come from? Some say, they come from within the writer. Stephen King has been reported suggesting the same idea, multiple times. Occasionally, he even mentions visions as the triggers of some of his stories, Duma Key for example. For John Grisham, themes mostly come to him from courtrooms or even news reports. A Time to Kill, was based on a courtroom event, he witnessed first handedly. As far as I understand, there are both external and internal factors triggering the development of thematic alignment of sensory experiences.

What is the ‘thematic alignment of sensory experiences’? In order to answer this question, let us first drop the pretention that we are not discussing the situation of an aspiring writer. As a fact we are. The difference between a person attempting to pay his bills (or at least dreaming to perform towards this direction) and a person who had already realized his reality and went to work at some office is that the writer person must keep an eye on every experience in life.

Silly or serious, the writer’s mind would keep registering them with all the charm and fantasy possible, attached with it. He or she would classify some events, thoughts, or realization as good for fantasy or horror, detective, or expressionistic or abstract work of literary art. Every sensory experience, thus transformed into themes, serve as the source of richness in creative writing.

In daily writing practice, the themes and pictures our mind has captured from the day-to-day flux of events in the mundane cycle might sound too grand and ambitious. They could be themes for masterpieces, however, in daily writing, we cannot focus much on a research based, or outline based writing. (Let us remind ourselves once again, we are not talking about Dean Koontz or Harlan Coben. This article is to the aspiring writer or the student of writing)

Before one writes a successful novel or a book of short stories, or poems or non-fiction, one must master the craft. Daily writing is all about that first step. Daily writing themes need not be deep philosophical ideas, or existential crises, or dark mystery, or horror classic. Daily writing could be about the very basics of daily life. This is where those web pages with writing prompts come into play. Writing prompts are immensely useful in maintaining a healthy daily-worship of your muse.

Some people might find it a bit difficult to follow a prompt generated by another mind, another person, or web page. Often, the student might feel put off to some extent at this point. They think their inability to perform well upon the theme or sentence fragment they found on the writing prompt page means their writing faculty is defective. Such is the nature and manner self-prejudice always attacks an individual. To be able to follow only one’s own inner call is not a defect. If you follow someone else’s suggestions and find it difficult to move on without checking with one’s own inner voice, you are one of the most normal and able person I have ever seen. For people with a strong self-call and inner motivation, finding a prompt oneself seems the best strategy. For this purpose, he or she can search through a library and find prompts from dictionaries, encyclopedias, and history books, according to once on convenience.

For the needy, a series of writing prompts will soon be published in this web page. WINK.     

About Anu Lal
If you liked this article, you might like my book too. Take a look.

Anu Lal is the author of Wall of Colors and Other Stories. He lives in Kerala, South India. He blogs at The Indian Commentator 
You can catch up with him in Facebook too.      

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