Due to editing issues with my current novel, I have been doing a lot of not-writing. Some of the not-writing I have done is to watch three videos by Anita Sarkeesian about Tropes Vs. Women, read Jennifer cruises Blog where she deconstructs TV shows and Romantic Comedies, and also read a book called A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz. It suddenly occurred to me this morning as I was reading that aforementioned book that all three of these people were talking about the same sort of thing. That all stories no matter who writes them have more complexity than just the main plot and character motivations. Those extra things are intrinsic assumptions that the author holds to be self evident.
For example Jane Austen did not subscribe to the societal trends towards romanticism in her day and her writing reflects that. Romanticism believed that if people felt something it was intrinsically good and that people should fallow feelings without restraint. Austen on the other hand believed that while emotion was important and should be acknowledged, it should not be valued above reason. She was sure that reason tempered emotion and balanced correctly, reason and emotion could create a whole person with moral fortitude who could navigate the world safely.
In Pride and Prejudice the main character Elizabeth Bennet believes herself to be a very intelligent woman, able to size up a person the very first time she meets them. In other words to judge a person using her gut feelings. This method had served her well for her entire life, but the turning point of the book comes when she realizes that she has misjudged many people and never reformed her opinions of them. This realization forces her to grow up. To choose reason to light her way, rather than use her emotions to make assumptions about what is happening around her.
Quite often I heard about theme in story’s and never understood what was meant. But Wikipedia says that a theme is “an idea or concept that is central to a story”. Many many people have read Pride and Prejudice and seen how the plot embodies Jane Austen’s own values. I will go so far as to say that, “reason trumps emotion”, could be called the theme of the book. It is universally believed that Jane Austen was quite aware of the how the story line reflects her own values. But it seemed to me as I watched Anita Sarkeesian deconstruct the tropes in modern video games that the writers and producers had not been so thoughtful of the themes that they laced through their story lines. Probably because they felt that it was not important.
Jennifer Cruise is very good at pulling apart story lines and showing off both what is happening in each scene and in the story as a whole. Her books are remarkable for their clarity. So as I sat there this morning I realized that all of my favorite authors are people who are careful and cognoscente of the themes that run through their novels.
It was as if the sun dawned over my head, I have been struggling so hard with the editing of my story because I am trying to see what themes are running through my novel, without actually figuring out my own assumptions. I’ve been attempting to climb up on my own back to get a view into my own mind without being aware of what I was doing. Is it any wonder that the project has taken so long?