“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

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