Sunday, July 14, 2013

Blog #14 "The Importance of Theme" or "Why I Love Star Trek"

A few posts ago, I mentioned theme and said I'd do a blog post on it some time. Well, here it is. Aren't you excited?? Hehehe!  No, this isn't some boring English lesson about morals. This is the fairy dust that makes your story fly and your writing shine!  It's the good stuff, the cream with the cherry on top.  If your writing has no theme, it has no soul, no heart. It's dry, dull, and flat, and nobody wants that. So read on...

 When I saw the last Star Trek movie, I was completely enthralled with it.  It's a great movie. Later, after the excitement died down a bit, I thought about what made me, and so many others, respond to it with such enthusiasm.  There's a lot of great reasons why, but one thing that occurred to me is Star Trek has always had great themes.

Like what? you ask. Well, I'll tell you what I think.

Ultimately, after all the explosions and fist fights and Vulcan mind melds, Star Trek is about the friendship between Kirk and Spock. It's about loyalty and sacrifice for others. It's about the push and pull between leaders and followers, competition and camaraderie. Other themes that make frequent appearances include war/peace, courage, teamwork, the quest for knowledge, equality, diversity, love/hate, and the power of emotions. In fact, Spock himself is a walking, talking study in emotion, or the apparent lack thereof. It's awesome!  (My apologies to my grammarian friends; I can think of at least two that are probably cringing at the sentences I just wrote there. Forgive me!)

Now maybe you're saying "Wait a minute, Lisa. Those aren't the moral of the story." No, they aren't, because there is no morality lesson in Star Trek.  Theme is not something you want to beat people over the head with. It's something you show the reader or viewer, and let them take from it what they will.  Let's take the example of Spock and Lieutenant Uhura. **This could be mildly spoilerish, so if you haven't seen Into Darkness, stop what you're doing right now and go see it before reading any further!!**

OK, so Spock has just managed to survive a very dangerous mission, but just barely. Uhura is upset with him for risking his life without any apparent thought of her or her feelings. There's a lovely little scene where he explains to her how the loss of his mother has affected his decision whether to feel his emotions or not and why he has made the choice not to. (I wish I had it memorized because I'm probably botching this explanation. I'm sure some good Trekkie will pop in and lend a hand.) 

My point is, nobody's on the screen telling you that we all carry pain in our hearts from some event in our lives and we all react differently to that pain.  But Spock, with his decision to be only logical, shows you intimately all the results of that in his actions. Love and loss are such powerful themes because we've all experienced them in some way. He pull us into his character because we can totally empathize with how he feels.  As readers, we love that feeling.  That's why understanding theme is so important to a writer.  What are your favorite Star Trek themes?  Why do you think that is? How does it speak to you?

And hey, if you totally love Star Trek humor like I do, visit my pin page for more fun :)


  1. I haven't seen the newest Star Trek movie yet. I want to but the fiancee could care less about science fiction so I passed on it in the theater. I did really enjoy this post though. It makes me think about my writing from a larger point of view (and has a refrain from my undergrad writing program running on a loop in my head "Show don't tell"... inspired mostly by your comment about not beating people over the head with a moral but showing how the themes affect/connect us). Thanks for the inspiration. Now I just need to get a little more fiction writing in to make better use of it. :)

  2. You know, my daughter didn't want to see it with me either, but I insisted and she ended up loving it. ;) I usually start my stories with a character and/or a situation in mind, but I always have some larger theme driving me to tell that story. Good luck with your writing :)