My friend, Paula, from Scribes flew with me to San Diego years ago for a writers’ conference that featured Elizabeth George. We’re both huge fans of her writing. Her presentation was well worth the flight, but one of the things that stood out for me was her idea that each writer repeats a theme over and over again in each novel they write. There might be a “topic” theme that’s unique for each book–and she said she doesn’t know what hers is until the book’s finished–but authors have a personal take on the world that sneaks into their work.
I thought about that when I switched from the mystery genre to urban fantasy. Did that mean my life theme had changed? I don’t think so. I couldn’t figure mine out for a while until I attended a lecture where the speaker broke down what attracted readers to different genres and sub-genres. I fell into the “good vs. evil and good wins” camp. In my stories and novels, I do what many mystery writers do–I make sure that crime, ultimately, does NOT pay, and good conquers evil and restores the world to its natural order, even if my protagonist has to break a few rules to make that happen. That’s why I can’t really write horror. In horror, evil CAN win and sometimes does. My evil might win a few battles, but it always loses the war.
Another friend, who writes noir (Les Edgerton–and he does it exceptionally well–you should check him out if noir’s your thing) wrote that monsters can’t scare him in fiction, because he knows there’s no such thing. He can’t suspend disbelief and worry that the vampire will drain poor Miss Marple. To frighten him, the threat has to be distinctly human in the making–because that, he can believe might happen. I, on the other hand, can easily be more frightened by a supernatural threat than a mortal one. Why? For me, it’s not about the actual event. It’s about the struggle of “good vs. evil.” Mostly, it’s about how hard a person will cling to his morals/beliefs in the face of almost sure defeat, how hard he’ll strive to be his idea of “good” or “worthy.”
My author friends who write romance don’t just like “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy must win girl” type stories. They write romance because they believe in and value the concept that love is a unique, important value that can change a person’s life and world. They love the idea of love.
When a writer creates a plot, peopled by characters, his most basic beliefs color the world he creates, and that, maybe, becomes his own personal theme. Every planet and orbit revolves around it, because at his core, that’s how he sees the world, what drives him. What seeps into your stories? When you play creator, what rules drive your characters and the decisions they must make?
(Just a note: my novel, Fallen Angels, is free for Kindles through May 21st: http://www.amazon.com/Fallen-Angels-ebook/dp/B0079MLWSQ/ref=sr_1_13?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1369065362&sr=1-13&keywords=Judith+Post)
Also, later this week, the author Kyra Jacobs interviews me on her blog, Indiana Wonderer. http://indianawonderer.wordpress.com/
9 thoughts on “Writing–What’s your theme?”
Interesting, helpful post.
Elizabeth George is next on my list. Thanks for the reminder. I think I’m going to like her writing!
I consider her literary mystery, a brilliant word smith. She has a good book on writing–Write Away–if you can get it from a library. Shows how much thought she puts into every detail.
Very cool, Judith. I always learn something from your posts. This part:
“That’s why I can’t really write horror. In horror, evil CAN win and sometimes does. My evil might win a few battles, but it always loses the war.”
This really rang true for me. Evil always has to lose. Always or I can’t read it!
I’ll have to check out your freebe kindle book, my dear. I do so love a good read.
See? You’re too positive. You won’t do any better trying to write horror than I did:) But it IS fun to write a really evil villain–to live in his/her mind for a while…until you kill him.
oh my gosh. You heartless, funny woman.
Kill him… silly you.
This is so true. I heard an author, I think Valerie Prav, talk about this once. I was actually really surprised by my “theme”, it was “fear”. Not just fear but panic and terror. I was so surprised! Maybe it will change but yeah at the moment, that’s where I’m writing from. My stories certainly get a bit creepy.
Bet you’re good at horror or suspense! The “creepy” sounds more like dark fiction or horror. Stephen King sure uses “fear” well.
My theme is removing the rose colored glasses. Lots to do here.
That’s an interesting theme. I can see where it could make for lots of character growth. The meek girl at the beginning of the book could be strong and savvy at the end. I like it!