There’s a hell of a lot to be got out of considering theme when you’re writing fiction. I’d argue that it’s hard to write something and it not have some sort of identifiable theme. A lot of the time, themes form without even having to be thought about. They’re tied to what the story is about so you can have anything and everything in even the simplest narratives: friendship, love, relationships, doubt, hope, understanding, exploration, redemption and, that guaranteed go-to concept that almost everything we do is themed by whether we mean it to or not, the delightfully ever-present Human Condition.
So, if theme can run through your narrative without you even having to try, why is it important to consider it?
Well that’s because, if you commit to taking your themes to the next level, they will escalate your writing up there to join them. Theme will give your narrative edge, form, structure and depth. It’s that Extra Something that a reader won’t necessarily identify but will still mean they get a whole extra bucket load of satisfaction from reading it.
My debut novel, Zero, is due for release by Dagda Publishing in August 2014. After submitting the final manuscript, calming down and picking myself up off the floor I, of course, immediately began pondering what needs to happen next. This is when I started thinking about how to hone theme in my future projects. I thought about how this might not only help me come up with ideas, but could also ensure that I keep moving forward and improving, now that the first hurdle of the First Book is nearly cleared.
Don’t get me wrong, Zero has themes. Like I said earlier, they happened almost instinctively, generated by the tone of the story and the motivations of the characters. It has redemption and friendship and relationships. It also explores the idea of value, or perceived value: what people think of each other and how they fit into our prescribed infrastructures and what happens when those expectations are defied.
So, yeah, there are themes all right. But is there a theme, an over-arching, deliberate exploration of one particular question or idea? Well, if there is, I didn’t put it in there and, whilst I don’t think the story is lacking for it, it did make me ponder how I could take my next book to the next level by deliberately choosing a central idea to explore.
When I thought about it, I liked the idea that book called Zero explored the idea of worth and value, which is does, though this was unconscious on my part. So, I realised you can identify a potential theme the minute you think of your story’s title. And a potential sequel to Zero was born: Haven.
Haven so far is a more challenging narrative than Zero. There are some heavier ideas in there: socialism, politics, responsibility, revenge. All good conflict-ridden story-telling fodder. But what I really plan to explore in this book is the idea of safety: of striving for stability, of fighting for an existence that you believe you deserve. Having established this idea, the narrative has almost already written itself.
I was pleased with how this came about so have applied the same formula to what could be a third book in the Zero series and also the first in what could be an entirely new series after that. After Haven, there will be Silence, a third and final chapter in the story of the cast of Zero. I don’t want to give away too much, especially as Zero itself hasn’t even come out yet, but Silence will once again explore a theme tied to its title: it’s going to be about what’s not said, or can’t be said and what that can lead people to do, think or abandon.
After Silence, it’s time for a whole new series, (yes, I have planned this far ahead). This new series will still SciFi but a different universe and a different sort of story. The first book in this series I have already decided to call Waste and again the title has helped me come up with the narrative’s theme: that which is perceived to be worthless, cast aside, abandoned and how that shapes everything of value.
Just by thinking about theme I have come up with the titles and concepts for three more books and, I hope, starting off with a theme already established will help me make my narratives that bit more engaging.
…I suppose I better get on writing them, hadn’t I?
For more details on Zero, see its shiny new page which contains a synopsis and details of how you can get your hands on a FREE electronic copy in advance in exchange for a review.
Have a great weekend everyone. Why not have some fun Thinking Up Themes?