Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Few Words on Theme

You probably already know of my new novel idea for One Year Adventure Novel (which I'm doing for a second time). I haven't written a single word of prose for it yet, however. I've been working on characters, hammering out the plot, and writing out histories for world-building. (I've got one document titled "A History of the Elathim" that's already well over ten thousand words long and counting.) It's not even titled yet, this novel. And most of this planning is in my head.

Recently, though, I've been confronted with the theme for this novel. If you've read this blog for any length of time, you've probably already encountered by fascination with theme. I hold it to be one of the most important parts of a novel. My recently self-published eBook, The War Horn, is a testament to that fact. It has multiple themes, some of which are easier to see than others.

But you might notice: the themes of The War Horn are more universal. Freedom and self-sacrifice are admirable traits in almost any society. I wrote these themes because I believed in them, but it's true to say that most everyone believes in them.

In this novel, however, I'm going to tackle much harder issues. The theme is one of the reasons that my planning is going on so long. And as a result, the theme is going to be that much more powerful.

But why is this theme harder to pin down?

I think it's because this theme is much more personal to me. I've been working through it myself, and now I'm emerging on top of things and more determined than ever to pen this story down. If it comes out the way it should—God willing—it'll be much more powerful than The War Horn's theme.

So my thoughts to you, reader—if you're writing a theme, examine your own experience with that theme. What do you believe about it? Better yet, what does the Bible say about it? How could your theme shed a new light on the theme?

Once you have those questions answered, you're well on your way to writing a powerful theme, and a novel that will not only entertain—it will challenge.

(And by the way, just because the theme takes a center stage doesn't mean that this novel will be boring. If you've read The War Horn, here's a comparison: the writing quality, if my more recent works of writing are anything to judge by, will be much better—the plot is going to be fast-paced, much faster than The War Horn's—the characters themselves will be better developed—the world-building is going to be intense and vivid—there will be more conspiracies—politics—and did I mention? There'll be a lot of running to do. And finally, I'm aiming for a length of 50,000-75,000 words or more in 24 chapters.)

So what are your thoughts on theme? How do you think a writer should go about finding a good theme in a novel?

POST SCRIPTUM: This was written a few hours after I wrote this blog post in a document:

I've finally worked out the theme to the best of my ability. I can't think of any other way to say it than that it was GIVEN to me by God. I literally have been muddled about the theme for so long that it felt like I was mired down and couldn't figure out what to do.

But just a few minutes earlier, I was praying about things and asked God to show me what He wanted me to do with this theme, because I couldn't work it out by myself. And then I sat down and began writing down some of what I had worked out so far.

And then the words flowed. And there is no other reason but God. And now I have the theme, and it is so much more powerful than anything I could have written without Him. I'm so excited about it that I literally can't keep still.

So, to add on: if you truly want to write a novel for God, ask Him to write the theme, not you. Because we are finite and He is infinite.

Praise God, for He is worthy of it.


Elizabeth L.W. said...

That's awesome, Jake! Really great way to put it. This novel ought to be great. If God's in on it, it will succeed!

Hannah Joy said...

Wow. Just wow. That was really good.

It's really hard for me to write themes, so I often just throw theme to the wind...but it's a really important thing to writing, and probably what's been missing. Let's just say me and God will have a little chat over lunch soon. ;-) Especially now that I am soon (after April's Script Frenzy) to begin a new novel with some interesting ideas that need to be transformed into good, solid themes, that challenge the reader.

I am really looking forward to reading your new book, and I am really close to buying The War Horn--I just gotta get my mom on Amazon again. :-)

Brianna said...

Wow, I don't usually intend for themes to come into my writing, but they must, at some time or another... I'll be sure to do this. I often don't include God in my novels, but I need to, and maybe this will pave the way for my theme to become God's theme.

Anonymous said...

Amen! Awesome! I can't wait to read it.

Ooh, doing 24 chapters in an OYAN novel? Sweet. So I'm not the only one doing things that aren't "allowed" in the OYAN curriculum. (A prologue that is *not* in my main character's POV. Naughty, naughty, I know.... : P)

I wish you best in your new novel and hope to read it soon! hehehe... : )


Jake said...

Yup. I obeyed all the rules the first time I did OYAN (The War Horn was the result!) but I decided to 1) do a fantasy and 2) make it longer, this time. I'm still doing the three-act structure, however. Oh, and this one is in third person, dabbling in different POVs.

Anonymous said...

Nice. : ) I really think mine will have to be longer - there's just not enough time! : P