Monday, April 4, 2011


MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Susie Sheehey is a former medical sales representative. She is the mother of a toddler and has managed to complete one novel. She is busy working on her next manuscript.

By Susie Sheehey

I've realized why I'm stuck in my writing this week. After a few weeks of frustrating writer's block, and having to delete several chapters and revise several scenes, I read at my local writer's group for their input, guidance, and support. And they pointed out another serious flaw that I have to go back and fix, which was frustrating, but I’m so grateful for their help. Because it gave me the first insight into my much bigger problem that spurned all the others I was fighting.

My theme is all screwed up in my current project. Some days my theme is about my heroine trying to reclaim the life she wanted before her injury. Other days my theme is focused on the anger and frustration in trying to deal with the pain of her injury. And other days is all focused on going after the love of her life. So when I sat back and compared the scenes, my heroine seems strangely bi-polar. Extreme highs and lows in her emotions and behaviors from one day to the next, its hard for me to keep track. I can only imagine what the reader would think.

My writer's group told me that in the scene I presented, my main character is too nice. She was boring. I needed to *itch her up. And they were right. In that particular scene, she was trying to be too polite and accommodating. But in the next scene, she was a raging, chemically imbalanced drama queen that sparked from a simple phone call. And the cycle seems to repeat itself over the next few scenes.

After perusing a few author's blogs and a several other sites, I narrowed down on my overall issue. I have too many themes and they're all battling each other. I need to get a handle on which theme I want the most prevalent in the book and write the scenes that way. In fact, its suggested to write my theme on a piece of paper, and tape the paper to my laptop or on my desk while I write. That way I'm constantly reminded of the MAIN THEME throughout my piece. Because the other themes are present in my mind and in the overall situation, they'll be lingering in the background, but I can't let those overpower the main theme.
So now my problem is picking the major theme, amongst the several I have battling each other for the spotlight right now. My current WIP (work-in-progress) needs some surgery.

Writers: have you struggled with the theme in any of your manuscripts? How did you overcome it?

Readers: have you read any books that seemed to struggle too much between themes? What kinds of themes do you like best to read?


Ruby Johnson said...

Good advice on taping the theme to your laptop.
I remember some examples of themes. One was To Kill a Mockingbird and the theme was Good triumps over evil. Of course, there were many who wanted to say the theme was different. Another was Dr Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde. The theme was man can have two sides to him- a good and a bad. I never get that involved, but I think theme means the growth the character experiences and is shown through his thoughts and actions as he makes his way through an experience.

Kimberly Walton said...

Great post! I've often wondered if I could sum up the theme for Phoenix. It's about forgiveness and redemption and moving on and starting over. Is that too much?

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