Theme and Scenes

I’ve been hard at work on two projects using the How to Think Sideways and How to Revise Your Novel Workshops.  I would say it’s not a good idea to try taking the two together–at times I feel like I’ll never get all of it done–but in some respects they’re both helping me understand some areas that I’ve had a lot of trouble with.

One is a new project, started from scratch, and the other is an existing project, which an agent told me I overplotted.  Here’s where I’m at:

New project: Masks (working title)

Conflict has been one of those things that was difficult for me to understand on the revision side.  With some of the work I’ve done through the course on the creation side, I’m starting to see how to work the conflict.  Mind you, I’m still in the planning stage; I haven’t begun actual words to page.  One of the things I had to flag to myself was to avoid the word “discover” because it represents weak and uninteresting conflict.

Poor conflict:  Protagonist decodes the book and discovers the truth about the curse.

Better conflict: Protagonist decodes the book–what she thinks she knows about the curse is all a lie.

And discover is awfully easy to fall back on.  I had to work a bit to create the second sentence without using the word ‘discover.’

Next up is to do an outline of the scenes.  It’s not a typical outline where you plan everything out in excruciating detail, plus it’s also not the first step (I’m on step 8).  Still, I’m trying hard not to running screaming from the room!

Revision: Cascadian’s Blight (title will change)

This had the tougher task of dealing with the theme.  My experience with theme was in school with teachers pointing to a book and saying, “The theme is X.”  And I’m reading the book and not seeing “X” (Southern California schools).  Plus, the concept of it is rather vague.  I went out and got a writing book that was supposed to deal with themes.  At least one would think so since Theme was in the title, but it was a chapter near the end.  This was about as specific as I was able to find:

Themes are often a declaration of the human condition. Or a truth that explains human behavior.

I’m still not all that clear on it, though it looks like I’ll hit on it again in Lesson 10.  So we shall see …