Posted by: krpooler | October 29, 2010

Finding the River Running Through Your Story


Sometimes when I sit down to write, I know exactly what I am going to write about but at other times I find myself being led by my story or memory or scene. Memories pop up like plastic balls from a child’s toy until I relent and include them. My point is,it seems like the theme will reveal itself as long as I keep writing and allow myself to be open to the process as it unfolds.

In her blog post “Finding Theme” from How to Plan,Write and Develop a Book , author, artist and teacher Mary Carroll Moore claims that “the theme doesn’t often surface until it is good and ready,often times not until halfway through the revision.” She notes that ” we find theme through the repetitive patterns that eventually can link separate stories. The beauty of theme is that it has the potential to transform the audience.”

I just finished reading Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone which is a perfect example of  how theme and character create a powerful story. It is a riveting fictitious account of  twin brothers whose passion for medicine and strong family bonds bring them to the father who abandoned them at birth. But it is  more than that. It is a story of love, forgiveness,passion,war,loyalty,life and death. The theme is bigger than the sum  of  the individual stories And through his gripping family saga , Verghese transforms the audience. We feel like we know these characters and can experience their conflicts and dilemmas.

In this post by KMWeiland, she talks about character as “the vital key to making your theme come to unforgettable life.” and ” the key to strong theme is character progression.” Abraham Verghese  brings us right into his main character’s experience from his birth through his trip to America and his eventual return to his homeland,Ethiopia. He honors not only the extraordinary,complex work of surgeons and physicians but also the  human side of each character.

So what is the theme of my memoir? So far the  recurring patterns appear to be how my faith in God and strong family ties have  been my anchor through many dark times. It is painful to go back to where I was, but who I am today is a  direct result of where I’ve been. Maybe someone else who is struggling like I did will find some hope and direction in their life. And so I keep writing and taking NAMW workshops with Linda Joy Meyers for I am called to write my story. Right now I am pouring my energies into keeping my boat afloat on the river that runs through my story. I know it’s there. It just has to reveal itself to me through recurring patterns and characters who pop in like uninvited guests.

What is the river running through your story?


  1. Fascinating, Kathy! I never fully appreciated my English teachers who urged us to dig deep and uncover an author’s theme. That’s why I love the quote that character progression is what makes for a strong theme. As authors, I’m not sure we can recognize our own themes — at least until we’ve had a chance to separate ourselves a bit from our work and then re-immerse ourselves into it. You’ve got some good stuff here, and I love the part about “characters who pop in like uninvited guests.” That’s so true — they do, don’t they?

    • Thanks Deb. This certainly is a challenging journey and it’s a darn good thing we have each other. As always,thanks for stopping by and for your comments!

  2. I don’t know how you do it, Kathy, but you always find the greatest, most helpful links! Thanks for taking the time to enlighten us.

  3. Sometimes,I feel like I am in the grips of a multilayered trap when I am on the Internet researching for a post and it’s all useful! I’m glad you liked the links. If others can learn from my learning,then that makes me happy. Thanks for stopping by and for your comments and support.

  4. Thanks so much for mentioning my blog. Like many writers, I feel theme can be mysterious. I’m always happy when someone sheds light on it.

  5. Thanks for being such an inspiration,Mary and for stopping by to comment!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: