“Theme, Characters, Story Elements”

"Unconditional Love is Universally Paramount."
“Unconditional Love is Universally Paramount.”

Donald L. Vasicek

All entertaining and creative writing springs from the writer’s ability to tell a story. And this story doesn’t have to be fiction. All effective writing springs from putting the story together in a coherent fashion.

A story must have a beginning, a middle and an end, and not necessarily in that order, but those three elements must “be there” in order to make what you are writing effective. The story must have a defining theme. A defining theme is the main theme of the story.

For example, if the story is about an apple, then everything in the story must relate directly, or indirectly to the apple. If the apple begins its life in the tree in the story and its struggle in the story is to become an full grown apple, then elements must be introduced in the story like the weather, the human being, the animal, etc. that are trying to prevent the apple from becoming a full grown apple.

It is the apple’s job in the story to fight and defeat each one of these “opponents”, with one of these “opponents” being the main threat to the apple. The main opponent should reflect what the apple wants, to become a full grown apple, but the main opponent, which is the villain or antagonist in the story, depending upon if the writer is telling a story about a fight between good and evil (villain) or a story that represents a competitive force (antagonist) to the apple’s goal.

This, then, introduces conflict, and without conflict in any story, there is no drama, and if there is no drama, there is no story, just a series of sentences that are saying something about the apple. And this could be where many writers are at in their writing dilemma. You must tell a compelling story that the reader can relate to on an emotional level, or you will lose the reader before they finish reading what you have written.

Get on the right track by “being yourself” in your writings. That is vital to be effective in your writing. So, what you need to do is rethink your approach to your writing style, perhaps rewrite something you have written utilizing the above suggestions.

If this resonates with you, good! If it does not then, I am hopeful that you continue your quest to be an effective writer. You’re never not that far off. You just needs to shift your writing a bit and you’ll be on your way!

Best Regards,
Don Vasicek

“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

“Cursing in Movies”

I hear “fuck” so much in movies that it’s become cliche to me, just like “holy shit!”. “Holy shit”, I swear is a term invented by Hollywood. Actually, the use of “fuck” and “holy shit” are becoming major turn offs for me when watching movies. Yes, I think there is an unnatural amount of cursing in movie dialogue. I believe it is a way of expression that writers/ directors/producers believe emphasize points in movies. In other words, cursing is common is real life, but in movies, cursing plays into the fantasy, the “un-reality” of how real life is.

The core audience Hollywood focuses on is 16-25 year old males. This age group, perhaps, more than any other group, are into cursing. In order to write, sell, and get their screenplays produced, many screenwriters incorporate cursing into their screenplays in order to attract producers, i. e. one approach to attract the core audience.

If a screenwriter desires to succeed in the film business, then, they must always keep an eye and ear open to what kinds of films make Hollywood money, and what the content is in those movies. Cursing is a standard by which producers utilize to attract audiences, increase box office receipts, and earn some money for making their next film.

So, you have to make the call. The first issue a screenwriter should confront is who is their audience going to be? What kind of audience do you want to attract, to come see your movie? Look at what caused you to come up with this idea. Think about what you were doing at that time in your life, where you were, when the idea come up, and who helped trigger the idea. Honestly answering these questions should give you an idea about your passion for your movie idea. This passion, correctly identified, will then, become the main theme for your screenplay/movie. These answers, then will help you determine your core audience, which, in turn, should help you make the decisions you need to make with respect to cursing in your movie.

Donald L. Vasicek
Writing and Screenwriting