Thursday, September 22, 2011

Revising - a home-made workshop - Lesson 2 - Theme

Revising for theme is a macro-edit but it is odd, in that it will often reveal itself during the micro-editing you do. Theme - what is it? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the leitmotiv is "a recurrent idea or image in a literary work." The leitmotiv, or thematic symbols, will, if used lightly, register with readers and add a richness to your story, beyond the plot and characters. It will give your work its deeper meaning, like incense offerings enriches the religious ceremony.
Let's say you have several leitmotivs in your work. Let's say I do - I do! I have a medicine bag, hawks and the softness or hardness of landscape in the three locations in the novel.  The first two are a bit obvious and I will probably take them down a notch or two as I revise. The last is too subtle and I may try and work it in a bit more throughout the piece. The themes they address are healing, in the case of the medicine bag; wisdom and the freedom it brings, by the hawk presence; and the landscapes reflect the choices Libby has in how she chooses to consider her life.
When we revise, our symbolic patterns become apparent. I think we put them in with some unconsciousness - but we need to polish them and reveal them with finesse. Susan Bell in The Artful Edit, suggests you might highlight them in your text and then see if there are imbalances. She warns "Quantity is not the only issue. Read through your draft to make sure every symbolic image integrates into your text, and does not sit on top as decoration."

Take a piece of writing and have a look at it - see if your leitmotiv shows up subtly or clumsily and what you can do to integrate it smoothly.
And as always - let me know!


Margot Kinberg said...

Jan - Oh, what a fascinating thing to look for as one revises! And it's those themes that can really hold a piece together. Wow! I hadn't thought about that as a thing for which one revises but it makes complete sense. And you're right; themes do come out as we write. It happened to me more in my second novel than in my first, and more in my third than my second and I didn't even plan it. How much better, I wonder, would they have been if I had...

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Great idea...using the highlighter to see if it's integrated well. Thanks, Jan!

Jan Morrison said...

Hello Margot and Elizabeth - I really wish we were sitting down talking about leitmotivs over a nice long iced tea. I'll just imagine it - I am a writer.
Now, it's back to work for me.