Wizard of Changes -- ©cdozo 2004 to 2015 (cdozo) wrote,
Wizard of Changes -- ©cdozo 2004 to 2015

What Engineers Don't Learn In College

. . . a novel's theme need not be philosophical; it can be any general subject: a historical period, a human emotion, etc.

(skip some example paragraphs)

Your theme, the abstract summation of your work should be objectively valid, but otherwise the choice of themes is unlimited. You may write about deep-sea diving or anything you wish, provided you can show in the work why there is objective reason to be interested in it.

The most important element of a novel is plot. A plot is a purposeful progression of events. Such events must be logically connected, each being the outgrowth of the preceding and all leading up to a final climax.

I stress the word events because you can have a purposeful progression of ideas, or of conversations, without action. But a novel is a story about human beings in action. If you do not present your subject matter in terms of physical action, what you are writing is not a novel.

Let me give you some examples of the difference between theme and plot, starting with my own works.

The theme of We The Living is: the individual against the state, and more specifically the evil of statism. I present the theme by showing that the totalitarian state destroys the best people: in this case, a girl and the two men who love her. When I say that the story concerns a girl under a dictatorship and the men who love her, I am already talking about the plot.

Incidentally, if one names only the most general meaning of We The Living -- the individual against the state -- one does not indicate on whose side the author is. It could be a communist story showing the evil of the individual, but then the plot would be different. Or it could be a Naturalistic novel, a presentation of life under a dictatorship with no moral sides taken, The theme, however would still be: the individual against the state. So when you work on a story of your own, make sure you define your theme clearly. That will help you judge what to include.

From The Art  of Fiction by Ayn Rand
Tags: writing

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