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This Thursday’s Child—Playing Waves of Shadow.

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This Thursday’s Child—Playing Waves of Shadow

The conference center echoed to the chatter of gathered women. Feeling somewhat on the outside, as I frequently do, I turned to my most frequent coping tactic, observation.

The afternoon light had its own pace, and approached the commonly recognized ideal for photography. Just beginning to move diagonally, the rays left a wave-like pattern along the windowsill and scored a stave of shadow along the hearth bench.
I found the corner peaceful, despite the bustle and noise going on behind me. The sleek gleam on the birch wood made a glowing contrast to the coarse textures picked out on the field stones of the fireplace.

It occurs to me that to be at its best, my story must contain some of each of these elements. The stretches of plot that are smooth need scoring by some shadows to avoid the glare of contrived perfection. Rough rock conflict also helps add realism. The theme readers discover allows truth to filter through, whether it’s expressed in light or darkness in my protagonists or their antagonists.

I want to believe that I am deft enough in most of these areas to create an effective tale, but I’m also aware that editing occurs nearly to the moment a book reaches the store shelves or the screens on Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble.com.

Today I’d like to consider a tool of the craft that takes a subtle touch. This tool illuminates story structure. Some writers learn that Theme is the first story tool to wield.

I don’t consider that ideal myself. Yes, I do understand that parts of book proposals are much easier to produce when a theme is chosen, but that easier production might not be worth the risk of beating my readers with an obviously expressed theme. In fact, blatant, heavy-handed expression of theme that overpowers story causes me to set the book aside.

Readers of fiction enjoy finding a novel’s theme on their own. They may find more than one. The moods in the prose, the interaction between characters, as well as events in the plot all have the chance to resonate with the reader.

It is intensely satisfying to sink into the world of the story, to live its events with the characters, and afterward, to experience an epiphany: “Why, of course, the hero reminds me of____.” Theme can illuminate a story, rather like the sun penetrating parts of the petals of this lily. Notice, though that some areas are cast into shadow, where the colors and textures are richer.

So too, some aspects of a plot might express the story theme via its dark inverse. Together, the bright and dark define the lily image. What that image evokes in those who see it, ought to be left up to them.

Dare to wait for your readers to send you messages. Discover from them the impact your words have made, and rejoice. It takes three to make an impression on the world: the writer, the story, and the reader.

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