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theme

Theme: Does a Story Have to Have a Moral?

Most of us have read Aesop’s fables in our childhood. The four Gospels have their own share of parables. These are just examples of stories that teach a moral lesson about what’s right and wrong.

And it’s effective to the readers because the stories will remind them of those lessons.

While fables and parables are rich with these moral lessons, other forms of fiction convey these in different ways.

Generally, fiction writing don’t rely on moral lessons. Instead, they inject these lessons as a commentary or insights about human experience through the characters and plots. And they are not just lessons, it is more of underlying meanings.

Because most fiction have more characters and subplots, it is common that there are more than one theme running. This makes for a more complex and engaging read.

In fact, readers need not state the story’s theme explicitly. For them, the theme will enrich the reading experience and encourage them to think about the human experience in different and specific ways.

As authors, we don’t need to state the theme overtly. This will make the story too preachy. But if the theme is not strong enough, the story will feel pointless.

Most of the time, authors don’t think of the theme as they set out to write. They focus more on the individual characters and actions and then the theme emerges from those.

For both authors and readers, the story’s meaning doesn’t always come out clearly on the first try. In order for us to identify the theme, it is better to ask ourselves these questions:

  • What is the story all about?
  • Why does it matter?
  • What and why is it important about telling it now?

The theme is best implied, running as an undercurrent beneath the characters and actions. It should come through the action and dialogue rather than forcing or telling the reader what to think.

Tell me what you think about injecting theme in writing fiction. Let me know, too, if I have missed anything, I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

genre

Genre

When we say genre, the first thing that comes into our minds is category. True, genres are categories of literary compositions. Each genre is determined by technique, tone, content, and even length.

The criteria used to divide literary works into genres are not consistent. It changes constantly and it’s even a subject for debate among literary scholars, authors, publishers, and critics.

Just see how literature as an art is divided into something like this:

1. Poetry

a. Lyric

(1) Song
(2) Ode
(3) Ballad
(4) Elegy
(5) Sonnet

b. Epic
c. Dramatic

(1) Comedy
(2) Tragedy
(3) Melodrama
(4) Tragicomedy

2. Drama

a. Tragedy
b. Comedy

(1) comedy of manners
(2) sentimental comedy
(3) burlesque comedy
(4) satirical comedy

3. Prose

a. Fiction

(1) Classic
(2) Crime/detective
(3) Drama
(4) Fan fiction
(5) Fantasy
(6) Historical fiction
(7) Horror
(8) Humor
(9) Mystery
(10) Realistic fiction
(11) Science fiction
(12) Short story
(13) Suspense/thriller
(14) Western

b. Non-fiction

(1) Autobiography
(2) Biography
(3) Essay
(4) Journalism
(5) Lab Report
(6) Memoir
(7) Narrative nonfiction/personal narrative
(8) Reference book
(9) Self-help book
(10) Speech
(11) Textbook

You might have noticed that a few genre overlap with another or the distinctions between them are thin. For example, crime/detective can also be mystery or suspense/thriller. Yet, their definitions differ and some scholars have made distinctions between each genres and subgroups.

Some people tend to use age categories as genre. In bookstores and libraries, literature may be classified as either adult, young-adult, or children’s.

Genre must not also be confused with format, such as graphic novel or picture book.

Also, literary techniques should not be confused with genres. These techniques may be loosely defined like any genre but they are not the same. Examples are parody, frame story, constrained writing, stream of consciousness.

On this site, we focus on a specific genre: crime fiction. It is defined as the literary genre that fictionalizes crimes, their detection, criminals, and their motives.

But what distinguishes crime fiction from the other genres like mystery and suspense/thrillers? We will discuss this on my next blog.

Writing

The Day I Decided to Become a Writer

 

Someone asked me when did I start writing. It took awhile for me to answer because I couldn’t tell an exact date. Okay, let’s rewind… let’s go back to where I started making up stories… back when I was a kid.

You see, I never thought that my ability to make up stories for role-playing with my dolls and playmates would help me become the writer I am now. And creating stories helped me get along with my classmates when out teachers assigned us to make role plays inside the classroom.

And so was writing poems. During my grade and high school days, writing a poem was easy. I remembered writing a long poem about music for the school newspaper. I also remembered making poems using the letters of my classmates’ names, and they appreciated it. But today, I couldn’t even write a haiku or a sonnet. I figured that I’m now more of a writer of prose than a poet.

Writing for the school paper in high school extended until college. No, I did not pass UST’s The Varsitarian qualifying exam. But I did pass the qualifying exam for The Purple Gazette. There was even a time that my stipend doubled because the printed story I wrote did not carry my byline and was full of typographical errors. But I never thought writing stories and articles would be my profession now.

Before graduation, my Filipino professor asked me to write a short story for a textbook for high school students. That was my first published story outside of writing for a school organ. It was unpaid, it didn’t carry my byline, and I didn’t mind. I never thought I could be ghostwriting for someone else that early.

Fast forward a few years after… I enrolled in a Creative Writing workshop in 1998. I already had in mind a story that would become a novel. I entitled it Caduceus, named after the medical insignia. It was about the life working in a hospital, like those medical dramas on TV. Fast forward a bit to 1999… I resigned from my job and joined screenplay writing workshops and the Caduceus novel I had in mind became Sa Likod ng Puting Uniporme, the screenplay. The rest, I should say, was history. So that was the first time I decided to become a writer.

Related blog: From Caduceus to Silver Linings Playbook

But writing had its ups and downs. I struggled to make both ends meet to support myself. And after giving birth, I stopped.

When my daughter turned one and a half years old, I decided to go back to work, not a writing profession though. Everyone around me said that writing as a profession would not support my family’s needs. So I worked for seven years in the BPO industry. However, something bugged me: a concept I started back in 2002. So I decided to become a writer again, to finish the novel once and for all.

Related blog: Number One Fan

True enough, I did finish Number One Fan and had it published on Foboko and Free-eBooks.net. I started to regain my confidence in writing.

But things turned out differently in 2014 when I accepted a teaching position in an arts and technology school. So I put aside my novel-writing, not totally give up on it since I was able to come up with The Vixens that year. But after a minor operation last June 2015, I decided to take a rest, work at home, and hopefully finish the novel I’m writing.

So if ever someone asks me when was the time I decided to become a writer, I’ll answer: thrice, back in 1999, 2012, and 2015.