Writing Advice from the Bookshelf: Billy Mernit on Theme
Excerpt from Writing the Romantic Comedy by Billy Mernit
The first and foremost, most obvious rule of working with theme is that it can’t be artificially imposed on the material—or artificially expressed. . . .
Actually, if you’re working with a viable theme . . . it’s already being expressed without such on-the-nose soapbox pronouncements. Your characters are embodiments of thematic concerns; they’re the ones arguing the sides of your possible truth. And who wins the argument is crucial. A writer’s attitude, belief system, and/or point of view gets expressed in three places: in the growth of the main character, in the resolution of the story, and in the storylines of its subplots. . . .
What has your character learned by meeting, losing, getting? Answer that question, and you enter the realm of theme. . . .
Where your protagonists end up is the clearest indication of the point you’re trying to make. . . .
Any storytelling component that doesn’t conform to a [story’s] theme confuses and diffuses a [novel]; an audience intuitively feels the wrong turn taken.
Mernit, Billy. Writing the Romantic Comedy. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2000. 95–96. Print.
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