“How to Write Theme”

If you eat a tortilla with cannabis butter, within 15 minutes, your body will feel an electrical-like blitzkrieg coursing your body. This charge is a dichotomy. It reverberates throughout your organs, muscles, nerves, etc. Your body is charged. Yet, your mind, which is part of your body for those of you who failed Biology 101, relaxes. And you are fine for the time.

Can you name the theme for this story? What defines the story? One word? Cannabis.

With theme, whether you’re writing a t.v. commercial, an online ad, a short story, a poem, a book about engineering, a novel, an article for a legal journal, a screenplay, etc., theme is what holds everything together that you are writing. Just like the cannabis theme for the above story, without cannabis in the story, it would be anyone’s guess as to what the theme is.

In my Disney-type screenplay, “The Real Ghost”, a boy is racing his bicycle in the dark night to sneak a meet with his girlfriend. It is a small town. As he whizzes past the corner convenience store, one end of a sign advertising Marlboro cigarettes, drops. The sign swings and clangs in a quiet breeze. Frightened by the silence in the street and his not supposed to be doing this attitude, with no one present, the boy glances over his shoulder at it. What is the theme here?

“The Real Ghost” is about a teen boy who tells stories that aren’t true. At the meeting place, his girlfriend yet to arrive in the yard of an abandoned house, he suddenly sees Babe Ruth appear. When he tells everyone in town of this sighting, they accuse him of lying, like he did last summer when he told everyone he saw Sammy Mango walking in Butch Carlisle’s yard at 1 a.m. Seems Sammy had been dead for several years, the victim of a falling pallet of landscaping rocks while sneaking a toke of a joint at the local lumber yard.

Has anyone guessed the theme of this movie yet? Lying is the theme of the movie. The Marlboro sign dropping and swinging reflects the theme of lying. The boy has lied to his parents. He told them he was going over to the gym to shoot baskets. They had forbidden him from seeing his girlfriend, because her father is the mayor, and the mayor does nothing in the town but blow smoke. They don’t want him influencing their boy in anyway, particularly since their boy already blows smoke himself, just to get attention. The clanging sign is a warning to the boy that what he is doing is wrong because he lied to his parents, and the boy doesn’t heed the warning.

By telling everyone that he saw Babe Ruth, the boy’s problems about lying escalate.

The fine point of theme is that it should be reflected in some form, physical, or mental,
in every change of location or time regarding what you’re writing. Every time! It matters not what you are writing. It matters yes that you paste your theme on your and in your characters, their surroundings, and their time in what your are writing. This approach to writing theme will have the same effect that the roots of a tree has. Without the roots, there would be no tree. Without theme, there is no story. Without story, there is just a blob of words.  Without a tree, there is no shade.

Warning: Watch out for falling pallets of landscaping rock.

Donald L. Vasicek at Wrigley Field in Chicago

“How To Destroy Writer’s Block”

What I learned several years ago was
to push myself to write.  By writing
at the same time each day, even if
it is for 15 minutes, I write.  If it is
not writing an article, screenplay,
book, etc., but just writing, I write,
at the same time each day.  This
approach to writing is vital to
the professional writer.  It is like
professional athletes do before
a practice or a game, they loosen
up to reduce the danger to injuries.
A writer must loosen up before they
write, or they will experience an
injury, some refer to as “writer’s
block.”

I select something about which to
write.  A pen setting on the table
in front of me, for example.  I
study the pen.  I think about the
pen.  I ask myself, “What can I
write about this pen for 5 minutes?
I define the shape, the color, and
the angle to the table the pen is
laying.  I define the metal clip
on it.  I define the steel tip on it
I define the color of the ink in
the pen.  I note the name of the
pen.  I write about the pen in a
Zen-like story form.  I take all
of these elements and put them
together in a fashion that tells a story
about the pen.  The theme of
the story, is the pen.  The theme
is what holds every story together,
like the roots of a tree.

One can always write.  The question
is, how much brilliance does one
have to write, when the mind
refuses to give one anything to
write?  This is when the writer
must take charge and write.

When one desires to write their article,
screenplay, book, personal letter,
business letter, etc., and has
difficulty in getting started for the
day, or night, or what have you,
do a writing exercise such as I have
described above.  This warms up the
mind to turn to what one sets down
to write in the first place.  Write only
long enough to get the mind to
working again, before you return to
what you want to write.

And remember, anything anyone
writes is brilliant.  It’s just a matter
of how the writer puts what they
write together, that defines brilliant.

I hope this has been of help to you.

Best Regards,

Donald L. Vasicek
Olympus Films+, LLC
http://www.donvasicek.com
dvasicek@earthlink.net

Aristotle on Drama

Aristotle, The Poetics

Aristotle’s Poetics is a fragmentary work; originally it was a text for use by philosophy students rather than by the general public. The part which survives is mostly about Tragedy. The most notable thing about Aristotle’s view of the poetical process is that he sees it as an ‘imitation’ (mimesis) of real situations, rather than invention. But since it is a mental abstraction derived from many single instances, it is `truer’ than any individual situation, because it is more ‘universal’, more general, or (as Plato might have said) it participates in the Ideal to a greater degree.

The PROCESS OF IMITATION in Tragedy includes:
(1) language [diction]
(2) meter [rhythm]
(3) music
(4) dance [movement]
The SUBJECT MATTER OF TRAGEDY is THE ACTIVITY OF HUMAN BEINGS, either seen as
(a) IDEALIZED [heroic deeds, klea andron]
(b) REALISTIC [average human activities]
(c) CARICATURIZED [comedic exaggeration of reality]

EPIC AND TRAGEDY compared and contrasted:
THE EPIC TRAGEDY
idealized men & women idealized men & women
direct and indirect narrative direct narrative
dactylic hexameter various meters
open-ended length limited length [usually one day, the ‘unity of time’]

PURPOSE OF DRAMA:
According to Aristotle the purpose of Drama is to arouse in the audience feelings of PITY and FEAR, and to purge these emotions (catharsis), thereby making people stronger emotionally.

ELEMENTS OF DRAMA:
(1) scenery and costume (spectacle)
(2) musical score (organized sound)
(3) libretto (the text, diction)
(4) characterization
(5) thought content (themes and ideas)
(6) plot (action: METABOLE)

Since a drama is dynamic, it is PLOT which governs the whole. In fact, music and spectacle can be omitted (as in the reading of a play) while the effect of the drama is still preserved. A PLOT must have: a beginning, a middle and an end; it must be of a certain length (neither too long nor too short); it must have unity of theme (connection actions, not random items); it must be graspable by the mind and memory both in its parts and as a whole.
PLOT can be
(a) simple (without `reversal’ [PERIPATEIA] or `discovery’ [anagnoresis])
(b) complex (with either Peripateia or Anagnoresis)
ANAGNORESIS
(1) by signs or tokens, or marks on the body ‘recognition’
(2) arbitrary, by direct discoveries invented by author
(3) awakened memory (recall of forgotten events)
(4) logical reasoning, or sophistical reasoning
(5) discovery from incidents, in a `probable’ manner.

-John Paul Adams, CSUN
john.p.adams@csun.edu