102: Fundamentals of Theme

102: Fundamentals of Theme

A Lesson by Chris T.
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Further understanding the fundamentals.

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102: Fundamentals of Theme

The most important concept to understand about one’s piece, before any complexities can be added, is the theme. Simply put, if you do not understand what you are trying to say in the first place, you will certainly struggle to make it unique and thoughtful as well.

This lesson will examine the concept of theme in a poem, how it can truly make or break a quality poem, and it will conclude with fun ideas and/or examples.

One should write with two things in mind throughout the entire process:
1. A purpose
2. A story to tell

Purposes are limitless, and they are typically the inspiration for writing in the first place. The writer could be penning words for a loved one, venting about a particularly bad day at work, and so on. I do not need to explain the concept of purpose any further because it is distinct to each of us.

The "story to tell" is where we can truly begin to look at what sort of details and intricacies we will be able to layer over the work as it progresses. I like to think of the "story to tell" as encompassing several parts:
1. The Overall Progression
2. Any Metaphor/Analogy/Etc... Throughout the Piece
3. The Characterization

I believe concepts #1 and #2 are somewhat self-explanatory, but to make sure we are all on the same page moving forward, let us touch on them quickly before moving forward:

1.  How are we getting from Point A to Point Z? Are we going chronologically (B, C, D…), or will the progression be fragmented, leading the reader to piece it together as a puzzle (N, U, F…) Many people have a firm grasp on progression.

2. Metaphors, analogies, and so on are a trickier technique. Once the writer understands progression, they must decide how to accomplish it. There are infinite possibilities for this option, and many of us manage to create excellent works based around this concept.

3. My concept of characterization is the strongest asset to developing a devilishly complex piece. We have a story in place (progression), and we have the basis upon which this story will be told. Thus, the goal is to now bring this story to life. Characterization is simply the process of breathing life into a piece. On a very basic level, it is the individuality and uniqueness that will make a piece stand out from other similar pieces (love poem, pain poem, lyrical poem, etc…). 

We now have an understanding of how important “theme” is to the overall quality of a piece, and my hope is that you are starting to formulate your own ideas about writing more complex pieces.
The remainder of this lesson will examine a piece with a strong amount of character.

EXAMPLE:
Title: “Capgras Delusion”
Author: Me.

Rose says to
Bartholomew J. Bee,
“You feel differently,”
says,
“You are not my Bee.”

Bart, the ol’ boy, says
“You are a pale pink rose,”
says,
“You are not my rose.”


Rose asks,
“What are these pollen pods of varying hues,
plastered all along the side of you?”

Rose whispers,
"Oh honey..."
wants to
wither up
and die
because
she believes Bart
has been cross-pollinating.

Oh!
The humanity!

Rose says,
“You are not my bee.”
Rose says,
“There is no way you can be.”

But don’t blame Bart
because he believes
Rose is not a rose at all,
but an orchid in disguise.

 

After reading this piece, there is probably one big question swirling in your head (at least):
1. What is with the title “Capgras Delusion”? Well, if you are asking this, go ahead and take a moment to search for a definition.

This piece has one major theme and several minor. The major theme is that of mistaken identities. This fact was revealed in the title, but for many, it required a little bit of sleuthing. Already, the reader is engaged in the piece (hopefully).

Without revealing all of the details to you, I would like to finish up this analysis by quickly detailing the writing and thought process for this particular piece.
Step 1: Once I determined the theme was based on mistaken identity amongst loved ones, I needed to figure out a way to make it unique. Applying a layer of “humanity” would allow the reader to connect, but making it too grounded in reality could also cause it to feel generic. Thus, I settled on the interaction of a flower and a bee. Their “love” is similar to humans, on a very primal level, but it also allows room for creativity.
Step 2: Actually writing the piece. The first time through, the writer should progress through their plot as well as they can. They should also integrate any metaphor important to the overall goal of the piece.

Step 3- The Details! I am going to try to wrap things up here, touching on a few of the details I included in this piece and explaining the rationale behind them, before I lull you to sleep. Without further ado, the details you may or may not have noticed:
The first two stanzas are more or less progressing us forward, while establishing characters (although this piece is rather short, so when I say ‘establishing characters’ it is meant in only the roughest sense).

Rose whispers,
"Oh honey..."--
> Bart is a bee. Honey comes from bees. Simple fact but fun to use.
wants to
wither up--
> Rose is a flower. Flowers wither and die. Simple fact but fun to use…again.
and die
because
she believes Bart
has been cross-pollinating.---
> Cross-pollination is vaguely similar to ‘sleeping around’.

Oh!
The humanity!-----
>This is a nod to the personification of Rose/Bart throughout the piece.

Rose says,
“You are not my bee.”
Rose says,
“There is no way you can be.”--
> Easy play on words bee/be.

But don’t blame Bart
because he believes
Rose is not a rose at all,
but an orchid in disguise.---->
Wraps up the theme of the piece, while finishing it up with a possible question in the reader’s mind: Why an orchid? Well, because orchids are associated with love. Thus, Rose is an orchid  in disguise, or “love” in disguise.

As you can see, it doesn’t take terribly intricate details to add depth to a piece. The next lesson will be based entirely on a new piece. The lesson will take it from Version 1, a basic poem, and we will progress through my writing process and attempt to make it more involving. Thanks for reading.

As usual, feel free to post questions/comments/concerns/feedback either on here, on my profile, or even send me a message. I am always willing to take a look at someone’s piece and give suggestions or work it into a lesson.



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Comments

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Posted 1 Year Ago


Love the example

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Posted 3 Years Ago


thank you so much for both lessons.
really appreciate them.

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Posted 4 Years Ago


Hello there. First of all, these were wonderful lessons that didn't include mountains of writing. they were easy to focus on and I thank you for that.

I have a different problem though. I feel as though I go 'backwards as a writer, and I'm not sure if that is a good or bad thing. Metaphors or any type of analogy are the EASIEST thing for me. Progression on the other hand, is where I get stuck which is mainly why poetry happens to be more of my 'thing' than prose.

I know exactly what metaphors I will use or exactly how to depict the emotion, but starting off and ending are the hardest parts for me.

Also I have no idea what my writing would be classified as. Sure I can tell the difference between a story and a poem, but sometimes they are a little of both or neither. This makes the publishing process very difficult.
I don't want to seem needy or look as though I am promoting myself, but I would love it if you could take a look at some of my work, so you can see what I mean. All criticism is highly appreciated. Thank you, and I look forward to more lessons.

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Posted 4 Years Ago


Thank you so much for both lesson. I found them very beneficial. I wish there were more :)

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Posted 4 Years Ago


good tips thanks it inspires me to write better i write poems and i also write stories and books and other stuff like that .. can you check out my stuff and write a review on it

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Posted 6 Years Ago


Hey, I really enjoyed both of your "tip" pages. They are very helpful. I was wondering if you could take a look at my poetry and tell me what you think. I am also knew to poetry and writing, I have been writing only since last week actually.
Thank you.

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Posted 6 Years Ago


hello, I am fairly new to poetry writing (I usually prefer story and novel to poetry dabbling) and I have this poem that I feel is too "cliche" I don't know what to do to make it less halmark and more real and was wondering if you would offer some advice to spice it up a bit? http://www.writerscafe.org/writing/emylleigh/533062/
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Chris T.
Chris T.

Pittsburgh, PA



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Hi. *The Obligatory 'Why I Write' Section" Why I write poetry- it challenges one to paint a vivid picture with words, and it tasks one with eliciting an emotion in a short time span. Quite tricky..