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03.07.2011 04:30    Comments: 0    Categories: Fiction Elements  Writing Theme  Writing Quotations  Writing Craft      Tags: theme quotations  theme  quotations  

"The theme is what the novel is about, and, still more, it is the reason for the novel." Elizabeth Bowen

"While the language may be lovely and the reasoning just, the ideas themselves may prove trivial." Lu Chi's Wen Fu

"I think that in almost all cases the theme, or the idea, of the novel has come first of all to the mind of the author, and he has shaped his plot in order to express it and conceived his characters in terms of it. It is the kindling spark-the ignition spark-that is in his mind when he says: 'I've got an idea for a story!'" Elizabeth Bowen

"Searching for a subject, a poet may indulge in the needlessly obscure or in the trivial, forsaking commong sense. Then all words will lack grace, they will ramble, and love will be betrayed." Lu Chi's Wen Fu

"Two attributes the theme must have: the moral element, because it is through the theme that the novelist makes his evaluations or shows some new aspect of truth which has struck him: and again the theme must be deeply submerged in the story. If a theme or idea is too near the surface, the novel becomes simply a tract illustrating the idea. I do not mean theme in that way. It is something of which you will feel the effects and which works strongly for the novelist but which is down so deep that you may have to analyse the story to find what it actually is." Elizabeth Bowen

"I think the failure of theme-the failure of a really important inside idea-shows in the kind of novel which is inferior." Elizabeth Bowen

"When you can state the theme of a story, when you can separate it from the story itself, then you can be sure the story is not a very good one. The meaning of a story has to be embodied in it, has to be made concrete in it. A story is a way to say something that can't be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is. You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate. When anybody asks what a story is about, the only proper thing is to tell him to read the story. The meaning of fiction is not abstract meaning but experienced meaning." Flannery O'Connor [my italics-UW]

"You walk through her stories like you are walking in a complete real world. And watch how the meaning comes from the things themselves and not from her imposing anything." Flannery O'Connor

"Many elements and much expertise go into the creating of successful works of art. Dominant among them is message, for this integrates the whole and brings comprehension and appreciation to those for whom it is intended" L. Ron Hubbard

"Successful works of art have a message. It may be implicit or implied, emotional, conceptual or literal, inferred or stated. But a message nonetheless. This applies to any form of art: paintings, sculpture, poetry, writing, music, architecture, photography, cine, any art form or any form that depends on art, even advertising brochures and window displays. " L. Ron Hubbard

"I think the way to read a book is always to see what happens, but in a good novel, more always happens than we are able to take in at once, more happens than meets the eye. The mind is led on by what it sees into the greater depths that the book's symbols naturally suggest. This is what is meant when critics say that a novel operates on several levels. The truer the symbol, the deeper it leads you, the more meaning it opens up." Flannery O'Connor

"His [the writer's] fundamental sense, as he looks at life, is of glory obstructed: a glimpsed wholeness shattered." John Gardner

"Good fiction always begins with story and progresses to theme; it almost never begins with theme and progresses to story." Stephen King

"Once your basic story is on paper, you need to think about what it means and enrich your following drafts with your conclusions. To do less is to rob you work (and eventually your readers) of the vision that makes each tale you write uniquely your own." Stephen King

"Theme exists only to make the character stand up and be somebody: theme is elevated critical language for what the character's main problem is." John Gardner

"Some people have the notion that you read the story and then climb out of it into the meaning, but for the fiction writer himself the whole story is the meaning, because it is an experience, not an abstraction." Flannery O'Connor

"Fiction is the concrete expression of mystery-mystery that is lived." Flannery O'Connor

"I don't think this business of dominant themes is conscious on the part of the author; it just happens that way-it's bound to happen that way." John Fowles

"Meaning is what keeps the short story from being short. I prefer to talk about the meaning in a story rather than the theme of a story." Flannery O'Connor

"I don't concern myself overly with meaning. This may be odd as I certainly believe a story has to have meaning, but the meaning in a story can't be paraphrased and if it's there it's there, almost more as a physical than an intellectual fact." Flannery O'Connor

"'Well, Miss O'Connor,' he said, 'what is the significance of the Misfit's hat?' I said it was to cover his head." Flannery O'Connor

"The novelist doesn't write about people in a vacuum; he writes about people in a world where something is obviously lacking, where there is the general mystery of incompleteness and the particular tragedy of our own times to be demonstrated, and the novelist tries to give you, within the form of the book, a total experience of human nature at any time. For this reason the greatest dramas naturally involve the salvation or loss of the soul. Where there is no belief in the soul, there is very little drama." Flannery O'Connor

"Fiction may deal with faith implicitly but explicitly it deals only with faith-in-a-person, or persons." Flannery O'Connor

"Nothing you write will lack meaning because the meaning is in you. Once you have done a first draft then read it and see what it says and then see how you can bring out better what it says." Flannery O'Connor

"You think too much of interpreting and analyzing and all that. Learn to write a story and then learn some more from the story you've written." Flannery O'Connor

"In all great fiction, primary emotion (our emotion as we read, or the character's emotions, or some combination of both) must sooner or later lift off from the particular and be transformed to an expression of what is universally good in human life-what promotes happiness for the individual alone and in society; in other words, some statement on value. In good fiction, this universal statement is likely to be too subtle, too loaded with qualifications, to be expressed in any way but the story's way; it may be impossible, that is, to reduce to any rule of behavior or general thesis. We understand the value, understand it with great precision, but even the shrewdest literary critic may have trouble formulating it in words and thus telling us the story's 'message.' It is in this sense that the 'philosophy' of fiction is 'concrete philosophy': Fiction's meaning (what I have call secondary meaning) is as substantial, or grounded in the actual, as are the elements of which it is built." John Gardner

"At heart all fiction treats, directly or indirectly, the same thing: our love for people and the world, our aspirations and fears. The particular characters, actions and settings are merely instances, variations on the universal theme." John Gardner

"Theme will dictate his selection and organization of detail and [the writer] has to dig out the fundamental meaning of events by organizing the imitation of reality around some primary question or theme suggested by the character's concern." John Gardner

"Good fiction, I have said, is intellectually and emotionally significant. All this means is that a story with a stupid central idea, no matter how brilliantly the story is told, will be a stupid story." John Gardner

"The purpose of all art is the objectification of values. The fundamental motive of a writer-by the implication of the activity, whether he knows it consciously or not-is to objectify his values, his view of what is important in life. A man reads a novel for the same reason: to see a presentation of reality slanted according to a certain code of values (with which he may then agree or disagree)." Ayn Rand

"A novel's theme need not be philosophical; it can be any general subject: a historical period, a human emotion, etc." Ayn Rand

"Nothing, let me pause to argue, could be farther from the truth than the notion that theme is all. Theme is what, at its deepest level, the story is about; it is the philosophical and emotional principle by which the writer selects and organizes his material. Real literary artists are always conscious of their theme; but this does not assure good writing." John Gardner

"If theme is not what we chiefly love about a given story, not chiefly what makes us reread it and recommend it to our friends, then theme is not universally the most important quality of good fiction. Theme is like the floors and structural supports in a fine old mansion, indispensable but not, as a general rule, what takes the reader's breath away. More often than not, theme, or meaning, is the statement the architecture and décor make about the inhabitants." John Gardner

"Theme, it should be noticed, is not imposed on the story but evoked from within it-initially an intuitive but finally an intellectual act on the part of the writer. The writer muses on the story idea to determine what it is in it that has attracted him, why it seems to him worth telling." John Gardner

"In the final analysis, what counts is not the philosophy of the writer (that will reveal itself in any case) but the fortunes of the characters, how their principles of generosity or stubborn honesty or stinginess or cowardice help them or hurt them in specific situations. What counts is the characters' story." John Gardner

"The fact that these meanings are there makes the book significant. The reader may not see them but they have their effect on him nonetheless. This is the way the modern novelist sink, or hides, his theme." Flannery O'Connor

"My feeling is that once the story is written, like murder, theme will out." Barnaby Conrad.

"Without being verbalized, the theme or moral is innate in the author." Barnaby Conrad.

"What the author knows in his or her bones makes the reader's own bones ache with sympathy." Sid Stebel.

"If the writer sees the theme clearly before the final rewrite, so then too will the reader." Sid Stebel.

"It [theme] is a revelation of some kind, a discovery the author wants to share with us, and it is most likely to be lured out where we can see it in such change as has taken place in the protagonist's perception of self or the surrounding world." John Leggett.

"A theme is an existential inquiry." Milan Kundera

"His [the prophetic writer's] theme is the universe, or something universal, but he is not necessarily going to 'say' anything about the universe; he proposes to sing, and the strangeness of song arising in the halls of fiction is bound to give us a shock. . . . Nothing can be stated about Moby Dick except that it is a contest. The rest is song." E.M. Forster

"His [Flaubert's] sole thought is how to present the story, how to tell it in a way that will give the effect he desires, how to show the little collection of facts so that they may announce the meaning he sees in them." Percy Lubbock

"The purpose of the novelist's ingenuity is always the same; it is to give his subject the highest relief by which it is capable of profiting." Percy Lubbock

"It's durable because it's simple. It's built on four things that everybody does: sleeping, eating, raising a family and making money." Chic Young on Blondie, his comic strip

"History develops, art stands still. The novelist of the future will have to pass all the new facts through the old if variable mechanism of the creative mind." E.M. Forster

"A common complaint of editors over the past decade has been that, while the level of writing in American letters is higher than ever, much of what is written about is trivial, private, or merely personal." Philip Gerard [1999]

"A good book is about the struggles of vividly drawn individuals, not issues. Through their travail, we comprehend the issues profoundly." Philip Gerard

"Remember, you're not just moving the story along smoothly; you're also moving along the ideas that underlie the story-the big themes that drove you to write it in the first place." Philip Gerard

"Before you can have a meaningful subtext, you have to have compelling text." Philip Gerard

"There has to be a good story happening on the page before that story can mean something deeply significant between the lines." Philip Gerard

"The book relies on the accumulation of scenes, images, ideas, emotions, landscape into a larger whole impression." Philip Gerard

"The human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and sweat." William Faulkner

"This theme may be sentimental; father and mother and child in the garden; the death; the sail to the Lighthouse. I think, though, that when I begin it I shall enrich it in all sorts of ways; thicken it; give it branches-roots which I do not perceive now." Virginia Woolf

 
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