The Gimmick: Theme, Philosophy, and Writing

“A true work of fiction…is implicitly philosophical.” -John Gardner, What Writers Do

 “On the subject of theme, I have one warning: Be sure that your story can be summed up to some theme.” -Ayn Rand, The Art of Fiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers

I began this blog as a means of interacting directly with readers and fellow writers, but I quickly abandoned it for lack of a solid purpose. Good blogs, the ones that interest people, have a gimmick, some theme to which they’re dedicated that interests both bloggers and their readers. I know a blogger who successfully writes about fashion and pop culture. I know another who turned her little book review blog into a hit with thousands of followers. She was kind enough to write a review of my novella. I think a successful blog has two parts: a solid purpose, and an empassioned blogger. Purpose and passion attract people. I was falling short on my blog’s purpose, its gimmick. But it came to me recently while I was working on an old story.

I began writing it in 2010. What was supposed to be a short story has since grown into an 18,000-word novella that needs completing. I had a lot of good material, but the philosophical portions were nevertheless ill-defined, ill-connected—in short, all over the place. I’m determined to finish the story, but it needs rewriting so that I can unify the theme and plot into a more cohesive structure. I started fresh with a mini-essay on the story’s theme, written by hand in my notebook for no audience other than myself, so that I could refer back to it as I wrote the new draft of the story. It occurred to me, though, that little philosophical compositions such as this, on my own work, might be an interesting way to spend my blogging time.

There it wClarity of thought leads to pristine fiction - CCas, my gimmick, composing miniature essays on the themes of my stories, either before or after the piece was completed. I won’t be writing literary criticism of my own work, though. Rather, the essays will focus on the abstract content of the stories, such that, aside from the story reference in the title of the essay, the essay won’t rely on the story at all.

The benefit is to me as much as to readers. These essays will require me to clarify my thinking. Clarity of thought leads to pristine fiction. What’s more, I know I’d read short essays by my favorite authors discussing the themes of their works. So, while this gimmick might not interest everyone, I’m sure it will at least interest some like it interests me. I also hope it will lead to stimulating conversations. My word is not law, and I imagine there will be readers who disagree with my themes and their conclusions. Whether agreeable or not, I welcome interaction on that most stimulating topic: philosophy.

Since themes interest me, I’m going a bit farther with my gimmick. Reading fiction is as important to a writer as writing it. We learn both through osmosis and through conscientious study of the masters and our peers. So from time to time, in addition to short essays on my themes, I plan to offer some informal literary criticism of short story masterpieces I’m currently reading, beginning soon with Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. In these cases, it’ll be important for readers to be familiar with the story. I’ll provide links to free copies of these masterpieces if available.

Well, here it is, my blog. In the ancient days of Greek philosophy, men and women used to gather in Athens’ marketplace, the agora, and discuss politics, ethics, and morality freely. In short, they discussed the themes of mankind. Let’s revive it here, if only a bit. Welcome to Agora. Welcome to my blog.

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