Friday, June 3, 2022

What Is The Message Of Your Novel

I remember teaching a workshop about query letters and synopsis writing to a chapter of the RWA a while ago. We got to the element of "the high concept" and suddenly found that I had an entire room staring at me with that "deer in the headlight look." What was the problem? These authors, like so many that I see, had no clue what the message was of their novel. They had no theme to it.

For too many, authors have simply sat down and wrote a story, or I should say, a lot of words about characters doing things. They spend countless hours just writing about event after event, adding witty dialogue, well-crafted phrases and so forth, but in the end, the story is a failure simply because there is no purpose to it. 

That purpose that we speak of is referred to as the theme of the story. This literally goes back to those basic lessons we all learned about in junior high. The theme is the "take away" from the story. It is the message you want us all to learn by the time we get to the end of the story. These themes are also "universal themes." In other words, these are timeless themes that we have seen over and over again throughout the history of writing.

I know that there are some of you who will argue that stories can also be used "just to entertain." Unfortunately, even those stories have a theme to it. Think of it this way, even when you watch stand-up comedians, they still have a common thread of something that we all need to learn.

So, when do you come up with a theme? This needs to be done BEFORE you start writing. As an author, you need to know that message so that everything, the characters, actions, scenes and dialogue, all support that theme. Trying to figure out that message after you write it, is like writing a Master's Thesis, and, at the end, trying to figure out what your thesis was.

With that said, before you start to write today, think about your theme. If you don't have one. STOP writing, figure it out, then go back and edit before proceeding further. You might amaze yourself with the outcome of your novel.


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