Saturday, January 7, 2012
Getting the theme across
William Silverman's book has focused my attention on a number of things: internal story and depth of writing, showing feelings, and emotions, using metaphor, and discovering and delineating the theme in each chapter or piece. I have only read half of her book, so I'm sure there will be much more for me to learn. But these particular issues are ones I've been grappling with for a while. So, in my re-writing, I've been going chapter by chapter and attempting to delve beneath the surface of my story text, develop appropriate and interesting metaphor, and focus on theme.
I was particularly interested in her third chapter on theme. According to my beta reader, in one of my chapters the theme was not carefully delineated. I was all over the place. I knew what I wanted to say but was letting the story get away from me. After reading what William Silverman wrote about theme, I analyzed the chapter in terms of focus. At times, I just sat and repeated the theme over and over. I found I had to go back and delete everything that was not slanted towards that narrow theme, which was " moving to Louisville." All that deleting was hard at first.. But as I re-wrote, the theme revealed itself more succinctly. William Silverman says "the discoveries we make during revision are a vital part of the writing process." And I can't agree more. When I realized the specific message I was trying to get across, it made the deleting easier.
Furthermore, as I focused on the theme, I started "slanting" the details, as she suggests, so as to reveal more about how I was actually feeling about moving. As always, I attempted the use of sensory language and the technique of showing instead of telling. It sounds so easy, and it does get somewhat easier as we remain aware of what we're trying to do, but in reality, it's not easy. And we must always be vigilant. I've already caught on to thinking of each event in my memoir as a scene, like in a movie. And that helps with the "showing." but I discovered that I was relying too heavily on just telling my story without letting the reader in on the whole picture.
It's a slow process, but a rewarding one.
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