Storylines, themes and plots

Among storyline, theme, and plot, theme is the easiest to pick out as different, in my opinion.

It’s easy to know that theme is something woven through the entire story. It is essential, but not the entirety of the story.

Differentiating between storyline and plot is a little harder.

The storyline, according to module six, is, essentially, the synopsis. It briefly describes what happens in the story, but doesn’t go into detail about every challenge and resolution. The plot, however, is all the gory details about the story. It’s the storyline, describing each cause and effect that leads to the logical conclusion.

An idea may start as a storyline or a theme. You may have an idea for something that happens, or there may be some moral or ethical question you want to discuss. Before you get too attached to the idea, though, you have to do a little plotting (and not the devious kind).

I’ve written those stories where I didn’t do any plotting. And I thoroughly enjoyed them. And whether they are truly more of a mess than my recently written, mildly plotted story, I can’t say just yet. What I can say is that, having even just done some plotting, it was easier and the story moved along better. I didn’t spend time having my characters do nothing because I wasn’t sure what came next. Plotting helps the story move from one situation or scene to another and eliminates the milling around.

In other posts, I have said I’m not sure about plotting because I like to let the story go where it wants to. But the authors of this course make a good point: creativity is hard work, and if I don’t know where I’m going, my characters won’t know what to do.

Plotting simply moves, to a degree, the freedom and fluidity of the story. Of course, a plot doesn’t have to be set in stone, it can change, but it’s good to have a map when going into unfamiliar territory. Plotting allows you to discover the secrets of your characters and your story beforehand, and thus make it more convincing in the moment.

A final thing the course authors talked about in this sixth module was, fittingly, endings. I never quite know how to end a story, and sometimes it feels kind of abrupt. But their advice is to end it quickly, so it doesn’t get drawn out and take away from the climactic ending. This, for me, is good advice. I don’t have to end on something mind blowing or profound (unless it’s the type of story that requires that). I can just end where it ends. It’s not a term paper where I need to write a conclusion, and that is a freeing thought.

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