• Member Since 1st Aug, 2014
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Discomfort is the feeling of horizons expanding against a closed mind.

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  • 8 weeks
    Visual Reference Guide

    From time to time various bits of imagery are sufficiently important warrant a physical representation, since MLP:FIM is primarily a visual medium, so I've created this listing to be updated as the need arises. Typically, this will include cutiemarks of characters in my stories as I publish them. Since this was growing larger than my main page needed, it's now here as projected.

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    0 comments · 16 views
  • 291 weeks
    CA: Theming

    A continuation of my Cumulative Advice for Writers blog, introducing one of the core elements of writing.

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    2 comments · 502 views
  • 292 weeks
    Still alive, still writing, and still kicking and screaming.

    Many may know I say that I write, and write, and write, but find I haven't published anything like the amount of stuff I've claimed to have written. Well, there's a reason for that, but I thought it was worth mentioning what it is I am actually working on, and what I'm working on is three stories at the same time; which can be

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    0 comments · 220 views
  • 292 weeks
    Outline: To Cure Deception

    Continuing on my work of providing examples for my Cumulative Advice blog, no advice is in need of examples more than Outlines. My previous outline posted for DotFR followed the format I call "Proof of Concept" being structured very much the same way a mathematical proof is. Different stories need different styles of

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    0 comments · 325 views
  • 293 weeks
    CA: Three Roles

    This extension of my Cumulative Advice for New Writers Blog helps distinguish and disambiguate three frequently used terms: Pre-Reader, Proof-Reader, and Editor. The goal of which is to help identify what each term means (through reference), so that when a writer is seeking help they know exactly what kind of help they

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    2 comments · 381 views

CA: Theming · 10:50pm Mar 16th, 2016

A continuation of my Cumulative Advice for Writers blog, introducing one of the core elements of writing.

A question that I, as a Proof Reader, must most frequently ask that I don't feel I should need to is: "What is the theme of this story?" or "What is this story's central theme?" Many, many problems can arise ambiguity of theme, especially if one has given no thought to maintaining at least some level thematic consistency in their story. It's the reason why stories have genres, and why this site has tags. More specifically it is the reason why [Slice of Life] is mutually exclusive with [Adventure]. So, then the questions "What is theme?", "Why is it so important?", and "How do I use it?" are ones that naturally follow.

What is a theme?
A theme is the central idea of your story. Generally it can be expressible as an emotional context and, as such, almost always can be expressed with a single word. The theming of a story is the exploration of that single idea, that central emotion the story is meant to focus and capitalize on, and one great big misconception about thematic consistency is that only that emotion is experienced in the story.

The purpose of a theme, what it does, is provide a grounding point. A central point you can establish as the norm, so that the story may deviate from it when necessary to expand the narrative, but not get lost when doing so. Themes are heavily related to outlines in that choosing one is a principle step of organization. Stories that feel solid, and well put together, are such because they have good thematic consistency, regardless of the narrative exposition. Great stories have both, of course, but narrative exposition is a topic for another post.

Why is the theme, or the act of theming a story, so important?
Coherency: the ability to relate the events of a story in a meaningful way directly relate to how they are tied together. The theming of a story is the act of ensuring that every planned event, every characterization, and every set piece in some way reflects their part of the story's central idea. How big that part is, is largely based on how important the piece of the puzzle is. This shows us that the theme, then, is our north star; an anchor point to guide a reader (and the writer) of a story through any twist and turn they may want to employ.

Every story I've seen that suffers, or is poorly written, consistently has had lack of a clearly defined theme. Or, a fundamental misunderstanding regarding the nature of theme being a point of reference, rather than the manner in which they color every line of prose. Stories, for example, that try to be one emotion all the time fall into this second category, while stories that have no clearly defined direction tend to fall in the first grouping.

"But Poth, you magnificent son of a bitch," I hear you cry, "didn't you just literally say that every element of the story should reflect the theme?" Why, yes, I did. But there is a key word we need to focus on in that statement to understand how to implement it.

How do I use theme/theming?
The theme is an object, while theming is a process, so I'll address these separately. The first thing to note is that in the above statement the key word is reflection. A reflection is both a mirror image, but also personalization of the object reflected.

Consider for example: Moonlight.

Moonlight is light from the sun that is reflected off of the surface of the moon. Even when both are visible, the sun, and the moon; we don't call the moon "second sun" because it isn't. Even though the moon is reflecting the sun's light, and generates no light of its own (because it's made out of rock), we still call it moonlight.

The same is true for elements of a story as we ascribe them attributes of the theme. Each character, object, and environment these attributes in their own personal and particular way. The process of theming is deciding which aspects of the theme fit which element of the story, so that they can be leveraged in the delivery story's thematic consistency. The practice of this process helps tighten, and focus, the story's narrative so that more can be done with less.

The application of this idea (theming of how Lunar light works), to the above example, we see consistently that Luna's characterization often centers on feelings like only being acknowledged for the ambient glory her sister provides her, rather than for her own radiant countenance. In a single word: Overlooked. From the Fall of Nightmare Moon, to Luna Eclipsed, all the way to Do Princesses Dream of Magical Sheep this has been a consistent theme reflected in not only Luna, but nearly everything surrounding the characterization of Luna.

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Comments ( 2 )

Interesting. I think I generally get what you mean, but I want to make sure, and I have some questions.

Say I have a theme of gravity. From there I can get to concepts like 'pulling' (or bringing something closer), 'weight' (in the literal sense), 'gravitas' and 'burden' (metaphorically from literal weight), 'density' (also from literal weight), 'denseness,' 'compaction'/'crushing' (since these are things that sufficient gravity could do?), 'orbit,' and 'lift' ("defying" gravity). I could also get to 'weightlessness' (the absence of gravity) and maybe 'directionlessness' (in the normal sense, or in a slightly different one of a thing having no [outside] force acting upon it to pull it in any particular direction). I could then interpret these concepts either literally or metaphorically to tie them into aspects of my story. Is that about right?

Second, I'm having a bit of trouble with your example. Specifically, how do you get from 'moonlight' to 'overlooked'? I can see the connection, sort of, but it feels like I'm missing one of the points in between. The theme is moonlight, and moonlight is reflected light from the sun. Luna is seen as being like moonlight in this way, or feels like she is. She resents this for obvious, understandable reasons. But how does that become 'overlooked'?

Also, I don't understand how 'overlooked' as a theme relates to "Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?" or, for that matter, "Luna Eclipsed." For the latter, I guess it could be said that her reform was being overlooked (or that she felt it was), but it seems like a stretch. For the former, I don't even know. Is the idea that her problem (her self-inflicted nightmares) was overlooked? She told no one about that problem, so how could anyone have overlooked it? It's not like it would have been visible. Is it that she wanted to insure she wouldn't 'overlook'/forget her guilt? I don't get it.

3885798 On gravity. Yes, though you may find it a bit broad to do so, you could go about it exactly as you've described, but you would want to make sure that the audience can clearly see how these ideas tie back to your theme.

On overlooked: The correlation is to what moonlight is described to be. Specifically, reflected sunlight. It's Luna's history, in-fact, it's the first thing the audience is ever shown--that Luna feels or felt unappreciated by comparison to her sister. That statement of "by comparison" gives us our "overlooked" as the ponies of Equestria looked to one celestial sister while largely ignoring the other.

On Luna Eclipsed: It's in the name. A lunar eclipse is one where the sun is completely blocked by the earth, but the moon is still visible and so it shines no light, but rather it has the earth's shadow cast upon it. More specifically we learn the legend behind Nightmare Moon, as it's presented in-world, is completely divorced from the reality of her being Luna. Which, is in itself a reflection of the character of Celestia, as surely as moonlight is reflected sunlight. That is because, though Celestia may have been trying to protect her sister's memory in the public's eyes, she's actually still taken away the greatest (most momentous and personally impactful) thing Luna ever did, and turned it into a reflection of her own rule.

I would also say that there is some metaphorical correlation to be made between the shadow of the earth covering the moon, and Luna's general mood and history.

On Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep: Luna is the one doing the overlooking in this episode. Refer to the lesson/reassurances at the end of the episode. Specifically that the student of Celestia needed to point out some seriously obvious things about Luna. Things like, since her return she's been a force for good, but couldn't see it, due to her obsessive fear of repeating past mistakes. Basically, the episode ends with Luna letting the light of friendship into her heart. Light that, though shown from Twilight, is arguably still sourced to Celestia since Twilight is only what Celestia made her into.

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