As we beckon in 2017, we prepare ourselves for tragic misadventures that all start with last-minute New Year’s resolutions:
“I’m going to write the next [insert favorite work of literature here]!”
“I’m going to stop overusing parentheses (because it gets annoying when you basically could have started a new sentence)!”
It is hard to fulfill New Year’s resolutions (I am my own case in point). Perhaps the main reason we have so many tragic misadventures each year is because we have not yet developed the skills and habits needed to accomplish our resolutions. The good news is that all of us at Kingdom Pen are gearing up to give you the skills and habits you need to achieve your writing-related goals (except maybe the one about parentheses—you’re on your own there, unless you wish to plead for help on the forum).
Where to Get the Skills
Each month we try to center our articles, short stories, and poetry around a Monthly Topic (formally known as Monthly Themes). Since many of you will be interested in writing something to fit those topics, we are making the list for 2017 available for your viewing and planning pleasure here. Challenging yourself by focusing your writing on a certain topic can help you become a better writer. Just ask Josiah DeGraaf, author of “Why Everything in Your Story Must Tie into Your Theme.”
In addition to our Monthly Topics, we are going to concentrate heavily on understanding theme, which is an important topic or idea that the moral aspect of a story addresses. Are you confused? Let’s unpack this a bit.
An Important Topic or Idea
I believe a story should revolve around a single topic or idea (and I think a few notable authors would back me up). Even Charles Dickens’s 135,420-word masterpiece, A Tale of Two Cities, has a core theme: resurrection and transformation. Even with all of the wonderful characters and plot twists, ideas and sub-themes, Dickens ties everything together through a central theme and creates a powerful story that leaves an impression on readers.
Notice that the theme is simple. It is not even a full sentence. It is meant to be abstract because everything in the story flows into or out from it. Theme is a subject on which you have an opinion, and your story is your opinion playing out in someone else’s life.
The Moral Aspect
According to John Truby, author of The Anatomy of Story, “Theme may be the most misunderstood of all major aspects of storytelling… Theme is the author’s view of how to act in the world. It is your moral vision.” Say your theme is love. We all know there are right and wrong ways to love and even an opposite of love (hate). But what is the “right” way to love someone? Hopefully that is what your story will dive into. Your characters will likely face moral choices that all pivot on the central theme of love. You will give different characters opposing views on how to love and that will put them at odds with one another, causing tension. Meanwhile, you, the writer, will be displaying a number of ways to love, and in the end it will be clear which one is “right.”
As Christians, the Scriptures inform our moral vision. The only way you will see the world correctly is through the lens of the gospel and God’s Word made flesh (Jesus alive in you). Thus, it is imperative that we ground ourselves in THE Word before we attempt to tell others how to live.
If you are like me, you long to share what you know and care about with others. For writers, this often takes the form of a story. We write to express who we are and what we believe, but we don’t want to shove our views down people’s throats. So we decide to compose a story. Unsure where to start, we look to the great allegories of our childhood like The Chronicles of Narnia. But soon we realize that storytelling is more than making up fanciful creatures and recreating our own version Narnia.
Everything we write should have a heavy focus on theme because it is the heart of storytelling. Without it, a story can feel disjointed, preachy, or even meaningless. It is impossible to sum up the importance and complexities of using theme in storytelling in one article. Thus, we are going to concentrate our efforts on increasing your Mastery of Theme throughout 2017. Watch out for more articles on theme to be published here in the upcoming year.
Teaser News: A Writing Course is Coming!
In closing, I have the pleasure of heralding the following news: we will be releasing our first ever Kingdom Pen writing course this summer. It will be a chance for you to advance your writing to a new level as we guide you deeper into Theme Mastery. That’s all I can reveal for now, but I will also give you this hot tip (because no one said I couldn’t): a limited beta release of the course will probably be announced on the forum, so be sure to check there often in the coming weeks.
Remember, your best hope for completing your New Year’s resolutions is acquiring more writing skills and habits. So be sure to habitually visit us at Kingdom Pen so we can help you become more resolute!