Saturday, September 11, 2010

Theme - A Story's Most Basic Element

Hello Fellow Unpubbed Island Dwellers!
Do get a cuppa tea or your favorite beverage and let's continue honing our writing skills. We will not lose heart on this island.  Instead, we will become strong in heart and skills!

Today we are going to talk about theme--the kernel of meaning you want to portray in your story or novel.
Theme is the basic idea with which you start your plot. You often give insight into your theme when you start saying, "My story (or book) is about a girl (or man) who.... (plug in any of the themes below).

But first,let me share a word from the greatest book ever written, the Bible. Here is one verse from a prayer the Apostle Paul prayed for others. I often pray Paul's prayers for myself, family and friends. Today as I write this, be assured I am praying it for you!  "May you learn to sense what is vital, and approve and prize what is excellent and of real value (recognizing the highest and the best, and distinguishing the moral differences) and that you may be untainted and pure and unerring and blameless...May you abound in and be filled with the fruits of righteousness." Philippians 1:10-11 Amplified Bible

A good theme contains a goal or purpose for the story's main characters and an anti-goal for the villain.
Every successful novel has a strong theme that mirrors the experiences of its readers. We want our themes
to have a strong emotional pull.  Themes can come from any aspect of life: romance, parenthood, old age, life's turning points, conflicts, relationships. Some basic themes/conflicts are:

Man against man -  "The Impostor"  FBI/CIA thrillers, Law and Order TV shows, Wars
Man against nature - Jack London's books, colonial America, exploration
Man against himself - Thurber's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"
Man against the clock - many westerns, pony express, danger or enemy coming
Man against circumstances - Romeo and Juliet; coming of age stories like "You've Got Mail"
Man against progress - the railroads coming out west; women or minorities' rights
Man against age - "Requiem for a Heavyweight" by Rod Sterling

In less than an hour I found many great themes in the Bible covering almost every aspect of human experience. Here they are for your idea file!

Husband and wife join in wrongdoing (Adam and Eve, Ahab/Jezebel, Ananias/Sapphira)

Jealousy, conflict between siblings (Cain/Able, Rachel/Leah, Joseph/brothers, Jacob/Esau, Mary/Martha)
Godly person staying true in pagan society (Noah, Job, Ruth, Esther, Elijah, Elisha, Stephen
Love/hate triangle (Abraham/ Sarah/ Hagar;  Jacob/Leah/Rachel)
Incest (Lot and his daughters)
Tender love at first sight (Jacob/Rachel)
Arranged marriage (Jacob/Leah, Isaac/Rebekkah, Christ and His Bride!)
Rape (Dinah and Shechem; Tamar/Ammon)
Family Strife and Reconciliation (Joseph)
Adoption vs. Infanticide (Moses)
War and its mighty men (Joshua, David, Gideon, Samson)
Covetousness/stealing (Achan)
Women’s rights (the daughters of Zelophehad, Numbers 27, Joshua 17)

Godly woman aligned with warrior (Deborah and Barak)
Timid son’s rise to fame (Gideon)
Harlot’s son overcomes beginning and makes good (Jephthah)
Rebellious son’s end with victory (Samson)
Sex slave trafficking/women kidnapped for arranged marriages (wives for the Benjamites, Judges 21)
Poor widow attracts older wealthy landowner (Ruth and Boaz)
Fast rise then fall of a leader/jealousy (Saul)
Unknown rises to highest seat (David)
Overcoming Big Odds (David/Goliath; Israel and her enemies, the NT church)
Woman married to really bad man (Abigail/Nabal)
Epitome of a wicked woman (Jezebel)
Treachery of warrior leader (Joab/Abner)
Adultery/Murder (David and Bathsheba, Absalom and Ammon)
Idolatry and its consequences (all through Bible)
Love of a king for a shepherdess (Song of Solomon)
Rise of uneducated, simple people to high seats of authority (the disciples)
Martyrdom (Stephen and others)
Rebellious Child and Father's forgiveness/restoration (The Prodigal Son, Jonah)
Conversion/Transformation (the disciples, legalistic Paul, adulterers; the insane/ demoniac; the sick, the lost)
Dead Religiosity Exposed by the Authentic (Prophets/Israel, Christ/Jewish leaders; John/ Seven Churches Long-awaited birth bring joy and change (Rachel/Joseph, Hannah/Samuel, Elizabeth/John, Mary/Christ)
Maturing Faith of youths (Samuel, John Mark, Mary)

Doesn't just reading these themes stir up ideas for your own story or novel? Does an idea you already
have fit into one of these themes?  My novel I am polishing has the themes of forgiveness and restoration in the hero's life and maturing faith in the heroine's.

Be blessed today. I pray for balance in your lifestyle--your work, rest, healthy diet/water and READING of good books!
Elva Cobb Martin

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Write Every Day...and Study

Get a cuppa tea or your favorite beverage and let's continue our chat about writing!
First, I want to share a verse from the Bible that has encouraged me often in my writing and I am quoting
from the Amplified Bible:
 I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ (right up to the time of His return), developing that good work and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you. (Philippians 1:6)

Now that's encouraging. The Lord is working with and in us to complete the good work He has for us.
And keep in mind Jesus is the Alpha (beginning) and Omega (ending). He knows how to give you a new
beginning and bless you, even in an ending.  The enemy would like to steal away the joy of an ending in your life. Perhaps something has ended in your life recently--a job, a relationship. The end of an era is not the
end of your destiny. The best is yet to come according to this scripture!

To review our first posting about getting off Unpubbed Island we said
Step 1 is to make a quality decision that you will do whatever it takes to get to Pubbed Island.

Step 2 Write Every Day...SOMETHING
It may just be answering emails or writing a note on a card you send out snail mail. It could be journaling.
Journaling is a great way to get the the creative juices flowing. I have a Prayer Journal in which I write
out first, my praise and thanks to the Father for whatever is current, then my petitions. I look up and
write down scriptures He may give me. I may not write in this journal every day, but I do write regularly.

I heard an author say that when she comes back to writing on a novel after stopping for a time, a good
way to get back into it is to journal in the main character's point of view for a few paragraphs.

I also have a Fiction Journal where I record snippets of dialog, descriptions, settings, characters, plotting methods. good hooks, good endings. You can get organized with this into sections and have a great deal of information at your finger tips for future use. Author Phyllis Whitney first gave me the idea and now others have greatly expanded this idea.

Step 3  Study to show yourself approved (to some agent, editor or publisher!)
When I decided to finish my novel I had begun years earlier, I decided to take a novel-writing course.
Courses like this can really help you. There are quite a few out there and you can google some of them.
I took Rosey Dow's novel writing course and it may still be available at
Next time we will cover some of the first things I needed to study--Theme and Worldview.

Be blessed today and feel free to comment.
 Elva---your best friend on Unpubbed Island

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hello from Unpubbed Island!

Hello to all you tea and fiction lovers.  Get a "cupa tea" or your favorite beverage and let's chat about writing. Right now I am residing on Unpubbed Island with my first Christian Romantic Suspense novel I entitled Tender Deception. It is set on a Charleston Tea Plantation, hence the emphasis on tea (which I love!) I invite you to follow all the steps I am taking to GET OFF THIS ISLAND. Maybe you will decide to get in the row boat with me? Pubbed Island, here we come! 
Step 1: Decide you are going to do whatever it takes to get TO Pubbed Island.
First post July 31, 2010