Finding an Idea for a Theme

Every story benefits from a theme – a concept of life that is explored over the course of the narrative.

Finding a theme of interest to you as an author is easier than you think.  In this age of social media, we speak to others of life, deep passions, inequities, and triumphs – the whole range of human pathos and joy that is often so sorely missing from stories that focus solely on characters, plot, and genre.

Often, we don’t realize we have sent a tweet or posted a comment that holds the seeds of a fully developed them, for we see these communications as momentary and transient.  But if you look back at the end of a day and read through your cyber communications, you are likely to find a wealth of material generated by your own natural writerly assessments of life, from the grand overviews to the tiniest experiences, elevated as you related them to another.

As an example, here is a note I dashed off on Facebook to my cousin some time ago that, in re-reading, I realized could be the basis of an entire novel or screenplay:

When they say, “There is no greater gift than to lay one’s life down for another” most people think they are talking about dying, as in sacrificing oneself in war. But I often thought that when we dedicate ourselves to others – family, friends, or a commitment to service – then we are, in a very real sense, laying down our lives for others – one moment at a time.

And which is the greater sacrifice – to have an instant of bravery in which one is not thinking about ceasing to exist and jumps almost instinctively in front of the bullet, the decision to stay behind to run the escape elevator, knowing you will slowly suffocate, or to choose everyday to lose your own life, dreams, even personality, for the benefit of those you love?

I personally believe that later choice is the most noble of all, for it is made alone, within oneself, over and over again each time you awaken.

Sure, we are able to pursue some of our interests to some degree, but the sacrifice is real as we watch the dreams that once drove us pale and fade into impossibility.

Still, the rewards are many – the smiling faces of our children, the peaceful face of our mate when he or she sleeps, the relief (expressed or simply exhibited) by those to whom we have been of service.

I believe we must come to realize that while we may wish our lives had evolved differently or that the choppy seas of fate might have cast us higher on the shore, life is not perfect nor is happiness a right, only the pursuit of it.

And, in the end, if we had chosen any other more self-oriented path we would find the sum total of our lives and the contentment of our hearts would be far less by a magnitude than it is by having laid it down for others instead.

Melanie Anne Phillips

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