I wanted to say a few things on theme writing. From the time that I first began reading I always really liked theme writing. Often it’s witty but more than anything it brings me into the story. When the theme is done right it can completely immerse me in a new world and not make me want to never leave.
I’ve been writing based on a theme every since I picked up a pen to some degree or another. Every writer does some. They use words or phrases they’ve already used, to call back previous imagery, or events, though the degree this technique is used varies from writer to writer, and sometimes even book to book.
Now you might be asking, what does writing on a theme mean. Just to clarify I don’t mean writing with a theme, which many authors do very well. But I’m talking about writing on a theme. By that I mean every bit of your writing, the verbs, description and analogies, are all (or at least as many as possible) centered around a particular theme, or multiple themes.
My most obvious theme novel is Naughty List. The theme surrounding Naughty List is obviously Christmas. To complete this theme I describe everything in Christmas terminology. Rarely do I describe anything as white, red, pink or black, they’re snowy, Santa suit, sugar plum or coal. Something doesn’t smell like vanilla, its smells like Christmas cookies. Every description I use circles back to that theme.
The same in true for actions, I use verbs like wrap (as in present), envelope (as in Christmas card), slid (as in Santa down the chimney), decorated (as in tree). I also use this theme to determine the analogies. Such as “Callie’s mouth turned as dry as Grandma’s fruitcakes” or “His balls hung tight and heavy as ceramic tree ornaments.” I even make allusions to theme in some of my descriptions. In Naughty List, I describe a wicked grin curled across Mallory’s face, or Eric’s heart feeling three sizes bigger. These are both inspired by my favorite Christmas movie, “How the Grinch stole Christmas.”
Not only do I enjoy writing on a theme, because it’s something I like to read and it gives me a little bit of a challenge (and we know I’m always up for a challenge). It also encourages me to think outside of the box, to think through each word I pick to search for a better one to go along with the theme. And it really helps me prevent any description repetition.
Most romance authors (and a lot of the others, even if they don’t say so) admit there are certain analogies and descriptions that they duplicate, specifically in those scenes. Sex scenes. There’s only so many ways you can describe someone’s nipples or cock. By writing on a theme I explore different analogies that might not come to mind normally.
Take three different descriptions of nipples I’ve written. In Naughty List, with the Christmas theme, I described Callie’s nipples as gumdrops. In Wandering off the Path, with its forest theme, I described Abigail’s nipples as knots (I was thinking knots in a tree, but for the story knots in a rope work too). In Midnight Mirage, I describe Mallory’s nipples as grapes (my thinking, being grapes make champagne, a common New Year’s party ingredient). As you can see from these examples, each description echoes back to theme, is different and brings to mind what it’s describing.
This is the way I write. And I enjoy doing. Whenever I get the right description, or find a word that perfectly meets my theme while describing what is going on in my scene perfectly, I get a little rush, a drop of excitement. It’s the type of wordsmithing that I’ve loved since I first started to reading, and I love to bring into my own writing.
So tell me what you think? Do you like theme writing? Do you not notice it? Is it too distracting? If you have any questions, let'em rip. I'd be happy to answer them.