Theme. That’s an elusive term to grasp. If a writer pushes too hard at a theme, it’s easy to overdo, and she comes across as preaching. If a writer doesn’t care about a theme, then it’s also easy for him to write aimlessly, almost like a sailboat without a rudder. In other words, it’s a delicate balance to develop a good theme.
How does a writer come up with good themes that resonate deep within a person’s soul?
Avoid writing with a specific theme in mind. Instead, keep the questions you ask yourself very general. When I wrote Operation Shadow Box, I seemed to violate that rule. How? I wrote about a Beattitude from the Bible. But when I did so, I explored all things mourning. What does it truly seem to mean to be in mourning? That was about the only question I asked myself as I read up on that particular Beattitude. Slowly, the themes grew from that thought and spread, almost like roots from a single seed.
Another way to avoid writing based on a specific theme is to focus on other aspects of the novel such as the characters and plots. Your characters will have a history and personality that is totally unique to them. And as they interact with other characters as the plot progresses, those themes will emerge. That’s what happens in The Athena File. David and Abigail, though with very different upbringings and walks in life, began to realize their shared history and how they both fought to overcome yet remained wounded in some way.
Readers may also ask this: Where do you get ideas for your themes?
Some are easy like in the Last Chance Series. The seeds lie in the Beattitudes. Other themes grow organically from the characters and plot like they did for Alex and Jabir in Panama Deception or Jenna in Hunter Hunted.
I really do try my best to focus on my characters and the plot and see where that takes me in terms of theme. When I do so and finish a novel, I then start thinking back to what I did. Only then, when I reread the manuscript do I see the themes. And when I do, I think, “Hey, I totally forgot about theme!” That’s okay. Why? Like a magical act, the theme has appeared.
And when it’s magical, it works.
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