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Scenes With and Without a Theme


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The following are two different ways to write the same scene. One deals with the theme “why people are deceptive.” The other does not. They’re both well-crafted scenes. Both have the same characters. But only one would be the right choice for a story about why people are deceptive.


SCENE #1


SCENE #2



The first version has Dorothy actively recruiting her daughter Molly to lie to her husband — speaking to the theme. The second version quickly devolves into their personal issues, which is the hallmark of a well-written scene but not as strong in this instance from a theme standpoint.


Another point worth noting is that you could just about tack on the second scene to the end of the first scene. That tells you something: Where you entered the scene could be stronger thematically.


So, when you work with themes, you’re writing inside a pretty tight box. You not only have to satisfy all the other elements of a great scene, but also must address theme. Because theme is why everything makes sense at the end of the story. The story has been designed to make sense.

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