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Windows and Doors: Build Your Story Series #4

Windows and Doors: Build Your Story Series #4

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Published by Linda L. Hargrove
The last in the four-part mini series on writing. The worksheet gives an overview of how to discover and flesh out a theme for your story.
The last in the four-part mini series on writing. The worksheet gives an overview of how to discover and flesh out a theme for your story.

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Published by: Linda L. Hargrove on May 06, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Windows & Doors
 You’ve got
exercises wrapped in one in this module. Look for the in theleft margin to find them. Write for you. Right now
he BIG picture
Theme for a writer can be likened to the seasonings a cook uses. Themes can bespicy or sweet, pungent or mellow. Tied closely with the tone or voice of the work, theme helps others look deeper into who you are. The right theme can propel thereader into your world.Take a few moments and think. In your writings will you be the hero or the martyr, the sinner or the saint? Will your memoir say, “I made it despite all odds!” or “I justdid the best I could.”On a sheet of paper, list at least five possible titles for your memoir, the story of yourlife. Examine them to see what you’re saying about yourself. Are you happy aboutyour accomplishments? Or are you more than a little disappointed? Your tone and theme should reflect your feelings. Be honest with yourself. Don’t just spin it howyou think others want you to.Take this exercise a little further and list our possible chapter titles. These titles canreflect the sub-themes of each chapter. These sub-themes should work in harmonywith your overall theme.For example: Let’s say you’re going to name you memoir
Shuckin’ and Jivin’
. Youplan to write it with a lively, no-nonsense street tone on the 1970s. Chapters might then be titled Good Times, Moving on Up, Papa was a Rollin’ Stone. An effective theme for a work like this would be happy but not sugar-coated. Put in sentenceform it would look something like this: My life’s been hard but it’s been good.
ood starts
 Your goal as a writer is to hook your reader right at the beginning. Your objective is tostir up curiosity, set up drama, or create conflict with your first few sentences. That is
©2006 Linda Leigh Hargrove | LLHargrove.comFrom the author of
The Making of Isaac Hunt 
Loving Cee Cee Johnson
your hook, that powerful little something that grabs and teases your reader intowanting more. Your hook should open the windows and door wide for your reader.Study the hooks from the published memoir excerpts below and write out what you think the hook works. Examine each piece and write what you think the conflict, tone, theme, voice, and setting are.
Cane River 
by Lalita Tademy
CANE RIVER, LOUISIANA—1834On the morning of her ninth birthday, the day after Madame FrançoiseDerbanne slapped her, Suzette peed on the rosebushes. Before theplantation bell sounded she had startled awake, tuned her ears to thecareless breathing of Mam'zelle above her in the four-poster bed, listened for movement from the rest of the sleeping household, and quietly pushedherself up from her straw pallet on the floor.Suzette made her way quickly down the narrow hall, beyond the wall altar,and past the polished mahogany grandfather clock in the front room, carefulto sidestep the squeaky board by the front door. Outside on the gallery, her heart thudded so wildly that the curiosity of the sound helped soften the fear.Her breath felt too big for her chest as she inched past the separate entranceto the stranger's room and around to the side of the big house where theprized bushes waited.Barefoot into the darkness, aided only by the slightest remnant of theLouisiana summer moon, she chose Madame's favorite, a sprawling rosebush with delicate pale yellow flowers and visible roots as long as her father's fiddling bow.The task didn't take long, going and coming back, and Oreline's breathing was still soft and regular when Suzette slipped back onto her makeshiftmattress at the foot of the bed. The only evidence that Suzette had been gone at all was a thin, jagged scratch on her bare arm from a thorn shehadn't seen in the darkness
The Color of Water 
by James McBride
I’m dead. You want to talk about my family and here I been dead to them for fifty years.Leave me alone. Don’t bother me. They want no parts of me and me I don’twant no parts of them. Hurry up and get this interview over with. I want towatch
. See, my family, if you have been a part of them, you wouldn’thave time for this foolishness, your roots, so to speak. You’d be better off 
©2006 Linda Leigh Hargrove | LLHargrove.comFrom the author of
The Making of Isaac Hunt 
Loving Cee Cee Johnson
watching the Three Stooges than to interview them, like to go interview myfather, forget it. He’d have a heart attack if he saw you. He’s dead nowanyway, or if not he’s 150 years old.I was born an Orthodox Jew on April 1, 1921. April Fool’s Day, in Poland. Idon’t remember the name of the town where I was born, but I don remembermy Jewish name: Ruchel Dwajra Zylska. My parents got rid of that name whenwe came to America and changed it to Rachel Deborah Shilsky, and I got rid of 
name when I was nineteen and never used it again after I left Virginia forgood in 1941. Rachel Shilsky is dead as far as I’m concerned. She had to diein order for me, the rest of me, to live.My family mourned me when I married your father. They said kaddish and satshiva. That’s how Orthodox Jews mourn their dead. They say prayers, turn their mirrors down, sit on boxes for seven days, and cover their heads. It’s areal workout, which is maybe why I’m not a Jew now. There were too manyrules to follow, too many forbiddens and “you can’t” and you mustn’ts” butdoes anybody say they love you? Not in my family, we didn’t. We didn’t talk that way. We said things like, “There’s a box in there for the nails,” or myfather would say, “Be quiet while I sleep.”
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
My father and mother should have stayed in New York where they met andmarried and where I was born. Instead they returned to Ireland when I wasfour, my brother, Malachy, three, the twins, Oliver and Eugene, barely one, andmy sister, Margaret, dead and gone.When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. Itwas, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worthyour while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irishchildhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.People everywhere brag and whimber about the woes of their early years, butnothing can compare to the Irish version: the poverty; the shiftless loquaciousalcoholic father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; the pompouspriests; bullying schoolmasters; the English and the terrible things they did tous for eight hundred long years.Above all – we were wet.Out in the Atlantic Ocean great sheets of rain gathered to drift slowly up theRiver Shannon and settle forever in Limerick. The rain dampened the city from the Feast of the Circumcision to New Year’s Eve. It created a cacophony of hacking coughs, bronchial rattles, asthmatic wheezes, consumptive croaks. It turned noses into fountains …
©2006 Linda Leigh Hargrove | LLHargrove.comFrom the author of
The Making of Isaac Hunt 
Loving Cee Cee Johnson

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