I've been getting my entries ready for our annual state contest. There are several categories in both poetry and prose. Each year, there is also a theme category which reflects the theme for the annual convention held in early October. This year's theme is Imagine. It's the one category I have not entered. Yet!
It's not that I haven't given it much thought. I have. I've considered this and that but none of the topics seemed to be of interest to me. Yesterday, I asked myself some questions. Many contests ask you to write to a theme and even some magazines ask that you write to whatever theme they have chosen for a specific month. So, it's something we all need to give thought to.
Questions To Help When Writing To A Theme
- What is the theme?
- Do I have any experience with whatever it is?
- What are the most common approaches to this theme?
- How can I find a different perspective on the theme?
- What can I write that might be unexpected?
- What kind of surprise can I incorporate in my entry?
- How strong a piece can I write?
- Should it be prose or poetry?
- Should it be way off the beaten path?
- Should it strike a familiar chord instead?
- Should it be fantasy?
- Shold it be true?
An exercise to try
Take a piece of paper, 8 x 11, and a pencil or pen. Write the theme word(s) in the center. Then concentrate on that word you've written. What comes to mind? Draw a line from the word anywhere else on the paper and write a word that came to you. Continue doing this as long as you can, as long as you have room on your paper. Then, take a good look at the words you came up with. Do you see a pattern of any kind? Do any of the words give you inspiration? There is no guarantee that you'll come up with a story to write using this method but it is definitely possible to do so.
What will a winning entry written to a theme consist of?
- It will avoid cliches.
- It will be filled with awe and wonder.
- It will not be predictable.
- It will have emotion throughout--sad, mad or glad--doesn't matter, emotion does.
- It will be filled with sensory details.
- It will speak to the judge who reads it.
- It will fit the theme well, not in a roundabout way.
- It will sparkle.
- It will be a satisfying read.
I wrote this post today to help myself come up with something for the Theme category. I hope you can use it, too, whenever you are asked to write to a theme.
IMAGINE--that's my theme and that's what I have to do!