“Zero in on themes”

December 4th, 2012 by

Here’s a tip on how to zero in on themes. Just as you can generally surface a story’s central theme by following the Protagonist, you can do a similar thing by spending time with each primary character and considering what thematic dynamics they bring to the narrative table.

This is yet another reason how working with character archetypes can benefit your process. As noted elsewhere, I think there are five primary ones we see in most stories: Protagonist, Nemesis, Attractor, Mentor, Trickster.

If you spend time with each primary character, drilling down into what their most fundamental narrative function is, thus enabling you to see what archetype best represents them, this can be the starting point for you to zero in on what potential themes are at work in each subplot:

Protagonist-Nemesis (typically the home of the Central Theme).

Protagonist-Attractor, Protagonist-Mentor, Protagonist-Trickster (typically supporting themes).

Ask yourself a set of questions per each character:

* What is the nature of their relationship with the Protagonist?

* How do they influence the Protagonist?

* How does what transpires between this character and the Protagonist connect to the Protagonist’s metamorphosis?

* What is the tone or general feel of their relationship?

* What is going on psychologically in this relationship?

* What is going on symbolically in this relationship?

Maybe you ask just a few of these questions and that crystallizes the nature of that subplot’s theme. Or maybe you go through all of the questions.

The point is not to cause confusion by asking you to generate themes in some artificial, intellectual way, but rather see if and how they emerge naturally from the organic nature of each relationship.

By going into your characters, you can:

Zero in on themes.

The Quest” has entered Week 21! And so did Go On Your Own Quest, an opportunity for anyone to follow the structure of “The Quest” to dig into screenwriting theory [Core – 8 weeks], figure out your story [Prep – 6 weeks], and write a first draft [Pages – 10 weeks]. It’s a 24-week immersion in the screenwriting process and you can do it here – for free!

Today and every Monday through Friday for 10 weeks, I’ll use this slot to post something inspirational as GOYOQ participants pound out their first drafts.

For background on “Go Into The Story: The Quest,” go here and here.

For all the previous weeks of Go On Your Own Quest posts, go here.

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