Welcome to my series on Pixar’s now-famous 22 Rules of Storytelling. I don’t religiously follow all of these like they’re story commandments, but I do happen to agree with many of them. I thought it might be fun to examine why and explain what each means to me. You can start at the beginning here.
Ah, theme. The be-all and end-all of your story. Sure, on the surface your book might be about a police detective looking into a pack of outlaw werewolf bikers, but you’re really exploring the depths that people will go to in order to protect their connections to this world. Real emotional-like.
There are two ways to create a theme. The first is to write a story and then see what it’s about. The second is to pick a theme, write a story, and then scrap the original theme and see what it’s actually about.
Seriously. It’s hard to inject a meaningful theme into your work while it’s being written. It’s not impossible, and it’s definitely a fine thing to attempt, but any work of art transforms and adapts as it is being created. By your book’s end, you may have a new favorite character. You may have changed the villain. You may decide that your old ideas didn’t work.
Whatever the case, be open to exploring what your words suggest after they form a complete story. You might learn something about yourself. You’ll definitely learn how to make your work stronger on your next pass.