Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I Just Love It When a Theme Comes Together!

I just love it when a plan comes together!” Hannibal Smith used to say as the A-team brought victory from the jaws of defeat. Well, I’m at the point where I want to say, “I just love it when a story comes together.”

I’ve been fighting this thing for several months. It started out as a simple logline. It sort of flashed into my mind, but once I thought of it, I knew I had to try to do something with it. I’m not ready to reveal what it is in a wide public forum, but I will say that what fascinated me about it is that it takes one of the worst situations you can imagine and then implies that the solution makes it even worse. Not this, but something along the lines of “She thought their divorce was the worst thing that could ever happen, but then they reconciled.”

After thinking about it for a while, I went ahead and started the story. I had an idea of what might be worse than the worst thing, so I headed in that direction. But then it didn’t work. The story involved a couple of parents and an adult child. The man is the lead character. I tried thinking it through with the wife as the villain, with the child as the villain, with the child male, with the child female. No matter how I thought about it, I just could not come up with something that was worse than what they had already faced together.

Weeks went by and nothing, but then, it started to fall into place. You might say that the lead character made lemonade out of lemons, but when the lemons went away, so did the ability to make lemonade. To overcome the loss of lemonade, the character must overcome a problem like what his daughter was trying to overcome when she caused life to hand him lemons.

As I looked at the solution, it just worked. Eventually, I’ll provide you with more detail, but I didn’t have to make any of the three villains, though the story is such that as we near the end, the lead character realizes that he has not only caused the problem for others, but it has caused him to have the same problem in his life.

Looking at the elegance of the solution, it all goes back to theme. The theme is what we have to say to the reader. It is our one and only message. In the story in question, the theme is along the lines of “don’t try to turn force someone into being something they are not.” Doing that with his daughter caused the problem and put him in a situation where others are doing that to him. It is killing him, but he doesn’t know it yet. Like his daughter, he must be true to himself in order to resolve the situation.

I’m excited about the story again. I’ve got a theme that will run throughout the story and I know the major events that will drive the story forward. I don’t see a gap that I don’t know how to fill.