Hidden themes in your writing?

I have emerged from the writing cave to shout my halloo across the blogweb and re-up my vitamin D with some sunlight. I had a serious case of Joe Versus the Volcano going on here. *blinks at you*

My lungs were feeling all stifle-y and my skin was taking on that sickly hue that can only be achieved after prolonged exposure to florescent lights. Kinda like Joe here, only without the mullet:

I was reminded today about something that went down at SCBWI in LA last month.  I attended Jen Rofe’s workshop called “The So What Factor”, in which we discussed Jen’s process of “so what-ing” your story.

The exercise was incredible. Jen started out by using her process on several popular movies so we’d get the hang of it. When we talked through Dirty Dancing… my goodness. Amazing to see it in that light. I’m not going to spill all the gems from the workshop here because, well, you kinda had to be there to appreciate it and it wouldn’t be cool since it isn’t mine to give.  I will say this: If you have a chance to attend this one, make it a priority.

Jen asked for volunteers to take part in a live so-what of your own story.  I was like:

Critique is a powerful thing. I am in awe of the different things people respond to in my writing. Things others pick up on and how varied they are. I have amazing critique partners who have been invaluable over the past year and a half while I have been living in rewrite land. So there was no way I was going to pass on this opportunity to have Jen So-What my story.

We got through the first few points of my plot and Jen asked me a question I couldn’t answer.  A question that, once asked, seemed so huge and obvious and ridiculous… how did I not have this facet of my story planned out to the point where I could explain the choice? 

I thought about it after the class was finished, and by the time I got back to my hotel room I knew the answer. It came on me like a sunrise. The clouds parted and the angels sang. It wasn’t a “Duh, Corinne you’re such an idiot” moment.  It was an “OMG, of course!” moment.

The answer was there all along. I just didn’t mean to put it there. I was just a bumbling writer making certain choices for my story without being mindful of the reasons for those choices. I only knew that there was no other way–it had to be this particular choice in my story. If you told me it had to change, I would fight you on it. It belonged there.  Why? Just ‘cuz.

But sometimes just ‘cuz doesn’t fly, my friends. Sometimes if you dig a little, you’ll uncover something deeper.

I read a lot of books on writing and craft, and inevitably, there is some reference to the hidden themes that emerge when you reread what you’ve written. There is a quote about this that I can’t put my finger on. It goes something like this: Write the story that you want to write and then go back and read it to discover what you really meant to say.  Anyone know it?  I’d love a link.

It’s funny how my new knowledge of this hidden theme has informed the subsequent writing and editing. I can’t un-know it. Things that were done accidentally-on-purpose turn out to be rather meaningful over all.

The process of writing is so incredible.  Have you ever had one of those moments of clarity about something you’ve written?  It makes me feel all jumbly inside. Like I want to kick off my shoes and get my boogie on.