Ethereality News & Weblog

October 12, 2016

Having themes in your story is not enough–they must resonate

Filed under: Writing — Rob Chang @ 8:18 pm

Often you see people touting the importance of having themes in stories, but what they often neglect to mention is the fact that simply having themes is no guarantee your story will be any good.

Having thematic exploration and purpose does not automatically lead to emotional and intellectual resonance. It’s likely that your themes might fall flat and make no significant impact.

I’ll give a simple example. Let’s say someone writes a story that is very similar to a typical “ABC Afterschool Specials” episode about a teenager facing common adolescent struggles in school and at home, and the story is so trite that even its target audience would roll their eyes. Would such a story have themes? Absolutely. These types of stories usually have themes about peer pressure, alienation, teenage rebellion, bullying, parental issues, and so on. But just because the story explores these themes with a sense of purpose, does not mean they will resonate. The average teenager would probably laugh and make derisive remarks when they come across the unhip, mawkish mess that type of storytelling tend to be.

Yet that same teenager might have a teen-themed movie on his/her all-time favorite movies list (for example, The Breakfast Club is a common favorite).

So what is the difference? Why one story about teenagers would make our eyes roll, yet another one like The Breakfast Club resonates so deeply with audiences across different generations?

The difference, is it’s not just what you say, but how you say it. In other words, it’s all about the creative vision and style of execution.

The question writers need to ask themselves, is whether their creative vision and style are compelling enough to create resonance. Do you have fresh insights on the same themes others have tackled, making them feel new and fresh? Are you just regurgitating your influences instead of bringing something new and interesting to the table with your own unique creative vision and stylistic choices? Do you know how to explore your story’s themes in ways that will create emotional and intellectual resonance?

As storytellers, we each have our own unique vision, subjects we care about, themes we want to explore, and the good writers will utilize their imagination and life experience and infuse them with their values, dispositions, and insights. What sets us apart are not just our technical ability as writers, but our individual taste, our stylistic choices, our sense of humor, our moral compasses, our political leanings, our social sensitivities, our philosophical dispositions, as well as the wealth of our knowledge and the depth of our insights.

So look inward and ask yourself, “What makes you different from other writers? How can you utilize what’s unique about you and your creative vision to make sure the themes in your story will resonate instead of falling flat?”

1 Comment »

  1. Thanks for sharing all this information with us mere mortals. It’s really helped out tons and keeping me focused on what’s really important,making a emotional connection.

    Comment by Randall flagg — October 13, 2016 @ 10:32 am

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