This post was sparked by Erica Orloff's post asking "So Does it Start With a Theme?"
For me, I have to start with the emotional journey of the main character. I have to know she's going from X to Y. And in any journey, we learn something from the journey, and maybe that's the theme.
A few days ago, I talked about Finding the Love, and how I can't really flow until I find that sweet spot. Mostly that's finding what I want to say, what I believe passionately enough in saying that will drive me through the mess of writing a novel and organizing my thoughts.
But I'm not big on symbols and themes as a matter of theory, but in practice, they're there. I just really hate for them to be noticeable. If someone can say about my work, "X is a symbol for Y," then I feel like I've failed a little bit.
For example, I have a two-sentence exchange in my mind, one that will take place at the end. I'm trying to decide whether it hints at the theme, or tells the theme.
Because, see, if you have to use a two-sentence exchange to tell the theme, then the story hasn't told the story. If you've effectively told the story, then two-sentence exchange can bring a feeling of closure, of getting the job done, of tying things together.
So I'm on the fence about those two sentences.
I don't like to be obvious. I fear my intrusion into the story. It's true; I might use symbols (if the following is a symbol), but I'll do everything I can to cover up the fact that it's a symbol. I use theme, sorta, but I'll do more to hide it than tell it, you know?
For example, say I've got a girl picking up a gun at the end of a story. Maybe she's a ... hmmm ... bounty hunter, LOL, and her career has been a rough journey for her, a journey of accepting who she is. Maybe her reluctance to pick up the gun has mirrored her reluctance to accept herself for who she is.
So I might go back through my story and scatter the gun throughout. I'll make sure she doesn't touch it, but I'll also make sure it's there. I'll make sure she goes out of her way to avoid touching it.
But each and every time, I'll make sure the gun has an immediate reason for being there that serves the scene, not just the symbol, you know?
So is the gun a symbol of her self-acceptance? Or some such thing? I don't know. Is the gun a symbol at all? I've never been much for symbols; literature classes drove me crazy. I like to enjoy a story (and a piece of music) as a whole.
The process of deconstructing the thing takes some of the magic away, for me. At the same time, I enjoy learning how a story is put together, and it's an important study. I deconstruct all of the stories I read. But then I have to put them back together and enjoy the whole.
I'm just a mix of contradictions. :-)
I respect the use of symbols and themes. It's just who I am as a writer. I want my readers to be in the story, living it so deeply that they feel like they're in the world I created.
I'm conscious that any "technique" might cause the reader to notice that someone wrote this story, and that it's a story, and not currently what they're living. I dread pulling a reader out of a story.
Those are just my goals, though. I don't know if I pull it off.
That's the most frustrating part of writing for me. I can't live in my readers' minds and know exactly what they're thinking and feeling and experiencing while reading my stuff.
I can't tell you how I yearn for that knowledge.
I don't know. What do you think? Themes? Symbols? Who you are as a writer?