Big Fuckin’ Questions

Every writer from the shitty to the outstanding needs to address a problem in whatever piece is being worked on.  Theme is very important, but it is no replacement for subject matter.  Instead, subject matter arises from theme.  There is a difference.

Paint can be used as an analogy for the distinction.  There’s red, but then there are different shades of red (burgundy, rust, scarlet, etc.).

Theme is a general branch of material.  Survival, for example, is one of the themes that interests me, and it’s a theme found in Robert Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, and David Brin’s The Postman.  Now when you look at a theme, try to look at it in a different light.  Do NOT fool yourself into thinking you’re going to find something that no one else has done before.  Stephen King did an interview for Under the Dome, and when comparisons to The Simpsons Movie were brought up, he said, “It’s really not a question of whether or not something’s been done before – the basic situation’s been done before – but what you can do with it.”

A useful tool in finding subject material is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  Maslow used this to help illustrate what motivates us.  Apparently, Freud was just partly right with the fucking.  That’s just one of a number of basic needs like air and food.

The middle part of the hierarchy – the need for relationships, for acceptance and love – that’s where I found the subject material for my book, boiled it down to a trio of questions: Who am I?  What defines me?  Where do I belong?

I can’t tell you exactly how to find your questions.  There is a bit of serendipity and soul searching involved.  Hopefully this will help you guys out a bit.

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