On "message," "theme," and Stuff Like That

When I’m working on a story, there is usually some background idea I’m investigating; what some might call a theme, although I don’t entirely understand that word.  In practice, it means that at some point in the process–usually pretty early–I discover that I’m using the story as a means to work out or explore some problem that I don’t understand but find interesting.  Whether anyone else ever figures out my subject is beside the point: it makes the process more fun.

So, here’s the thing: from time to time, I hear references from other writers about “introducing” a theme or some over-riding subject, and I hear it spoken of as if it were a separate process from the creation of the story.  That’s what mystifies me.  How can you, on the one hand, create a story, and on the other play with broader ideas, as if they were independent of each other?  Isn’t the whole flow and working out of the story an expression of whatever theme is being explored?

I’m not expecting an answer to this.  It’s just a thing that has been on my mind for a number of years and I just figured out how to say it.

Cats and birds: an observation

If you live with a cat, “played with” means “gone forever.”  As in, “Where is my pen?”  “It fell on the floor and got played with.”  If you live with a bird, however, “played with” means, roughly, “torn into little shreds to the point of no longer being recognizable.”

In other news, I’m on chapter five of Iorich (or Your Itch, if you prefer).  So far, it’s opening up in front of me in interesting ways.  I’m sure I’ll come to hate it later.

Firefly novel

I’ve done a fanfic Firefly novel. If anyone is interested, it can be found (free for download) here.

Note from Kit to Boing-Boing visitors and other new arrivals (2/18): Hey all, welcome and enjoy the novel. Things have been busy in the Dream Café since we released this, and so we unfortunately did not prioritize fixing the typos our readers have sent in or putting up other file formats. Please check back soon — by Wednesday I hope to have a bunch of mobile friendly formats available, and to have corrected the typos you’ve sent in.

Note from Kit (2/22): Welcome to New York Times visitors and other new arrivals. Thank you to all the readers for your patience — I’ve corrected all the typos I was sent and updated the files on our website. The book is also now available in HTML format. Hopefully, other mobile friendly formats will arrive soon.

Second 2/22 update: a .prc version of the file is now available for mobile devices.

December 2012 Update: Here’s a new link for the updated Dreamcafe.com: http://dreamcafe.com/downloads/

Question on cover letters

I’ve always considered myself an expert on writing cover letters.  Here’s what I’ve always said:

“This is all you need: ‘Good morning.  Enclosed (or attached) is my x000 word story <name> for consideration in your <title> anthology.  I hope you like it.’  That’s it, except that if you have professional credits, mention them.”

Fine advice, and I still stand by it.  Only, how exactly do you mention those professional credits without sounding like an idiot?  Appending, “I have sold a story to <name> anthology,” sounds, well, stupid.  I don’t like it.

Does anyone have any suggestions that flow better?