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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What's Your Theme?

Have you ever been stumped when asked to describe what the book you are reading or writing is about? Can you explain it before the person asking eyes glaze over? Several years ago I took an interesting workshop from Melinda Rucker Haynes to learn how to identify and explain the theme, or the central message of my books. One of my favorite lessons was one where I watched a movie and tried to identify how many places the theme was actually explored.

I chose the movie "French Kiss" and after watching it once and taking notes, I watched it again. Yeah, tough assignment watching Kevin Kline and Meg Ryan fight and flirt for two hours. How I suffer for my craft:-)

Surprise, surprise, the theme of the movie was identified in the first scene. Meg's character Kate is terrified of flying and proceeds to get her money back from a company that has promised they will teach her to be unafraid. There is a sign on the wall behind the woman refunding Kate's money. The sign: "Nothing to fear but fear itself" sums up the entire movie.

From the beginning when Kate is trying desperately to summon a vision of her "little stone cottage" that brings her peace so that she'll have something to concentrate on besides her fear, to the end when she finally lets go of her fear enough to grab for what she wants, the underlying theme that letting go of your fear is played out.

You see this in the French con-artist, Luc (Kevin Kline) who's afraid his last chance to redeem himself and become a success is slipping away to Kate's fiance`, Charlie (Timothy Hutton)who is so terrified of becoming like his parents that he takes up with a French girl who is Kate's total opposite.

This is a simplistic explanation because you can see the theme reflected in each character of the story. They are all afraid of something and it is utilized in almost every aspect of this story. It's hinted at in the very beginning and ends with a very romantic and satisfying conclusion that ties into the very first scene.

If you love wonderful, romantic movies, sit back and watch this one. Just for grins, try to identify how the theme is used throughout the movie and explain it in a few sentences. Authors do it everyday to pitch their books to editors and agents. I imagine readers might do it when describing a favorite author or book.

Just for grins, how would you describe "French Kiss" if it was a book and you were pitching it? I think I might say: It's the story of two people who need to learn to let go of their fear in order to get what they are most afraid they will never have. And isn't that a truth that resonates!

Happy reading! (or watching movies:-)
Red Stilettos-Ellora’s Cave
Head Over Heels-Ellora’s Cave
Assassin’s Kiss-Ellora’s Cave
No Holds Barred-Ellora’s Cave
IOU-A Carnal Reunions Tale-Resplendence Publishing
Ellora’s Cave Titles:
Resplendence Titles:


Sandy said...


I'm one of those people who make the editor/agents eyes glaze over. My mind just closes up when I talk to them, and I can't remember anything. It's horrible.

Good post.

Paris said...

Thanks, Sandy!

I think practice is the only thing that helps and memorizing one or two sentences that sum up your book!

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