// February 17th, 2017 // On Writing

Lawrence Konner on themeOne thing I try to do when writing a scene is to take the theme and try to get it to represent itself in every character from major character to minor character. As all the scenes add up in a feature, the theme should drip from every scene whether its on the nose or through subtext.

So when given an assignment of ‘a scene’ or a short or even a feature, I try to approach each scene with the theme I feel the complete story is supposed to represent. Of course its my take on the theme because everyone has a different view on a theme of a story on any particular day.

theme (from dictionary.com)

  • A topic of discourse or discussion.
  • A subject of artistic representation.
  • An implicit or recurrent idea; a motif: a theme of powerlessness that runs through the diary; a party with a tropical island theme.
  • A short composition assigned to a student as a writing exercise.
  • Music. The principal melodic phrase in a composition, especially a melody forming the basis of a set of variations.
  • Linguistics. A stem.
  • Linguistics.

DadWithAPen’s Rigamarole on Writing Theme

If the theme is LOVE CONQUERS ALL, or FEAR OF SUCCESS, or MONEY IS THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL, then every scene in my screenplay should have some sense of that theme when I write it. EVERY SCENE! When all the scenes are finally put together, the script should drip of this theme! Others may interpret it completely different than me, but as I write, I write from that theme. If you break down every scene in successful movies, you’ll find one resounding theme that links every scene together. It’s the ‘thematic’ throughline so-to-speak!

“The more you can find a theme that unites the plot and the character and think about that theme as you’re writing, the better off you’ll be determining the story’s structure.” Lawrence Konner (On Screenwriting)

I try to do this every time I write. When a script that I write seems to ‘not work’, its usually because the themes are changing. It has to stay consistent or it won’t feel right.

So take the quote above by Lawrence Konner, print it, cut it out and tape it to the top of your monitor when you write. Below it, do the same with another piece of paper but have your theme stated!

Many times I’m sure you’ve read a script or a scene that felt flat. Usually it lacks conflict. And given that, it probably lacks the themeatic throughline of what the writer wants to really say. And once that writer figures it out, the scenes will take on a new life and their pages won’t
read flat anymore!

When I take on a serious project I paste a LOGLINE of the story (and I hate writing those) and the THEME over my monitor. I always look at that LOGLINE and it keeps me focused on the story I want to tell. The THEME also reminds me of how to write every scene that make up that story. If I forget the theme, the story strays and it eventually it gets flat and doesn’t
have any depth.

“Without theme, whatever you are writing meanders, wanders and confuses. With theme, your ad, note to the mail person, or screenplay is organized, coherent and understandable. With theme, everything you write within the body of what you are writing grows from the theme; just like the branches shooting out from the trunk of the tree. The theme for the tree is the root. Without the root, there is no tree just like without theme there is no short story, poem or article.” Don Vasicek (“The Write Focus”)

Lessons be learned if you write a feature. Have a GOAL for every scene. And have that goal represent the overall story. If you don’t have that goal, then the scene doesn’t need to be in the script.

I swear I over-write and usually have more than the 120 so-called maximum script pages that eventually is cut down to 100 or so because of all the scenes that I cut that didn’t work. Don’t just let your characters babble for the sake of ‘cool’ or interesting dialogue. They need to babble and push the story forward. And you can only push stories forward if you have a goal. And it all comes to that word again – theme!

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franz kafka




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