Hello and welcome to Novel With Me. The series which takes you on a writing journey from start to finish.
Today we’re talking about the theme of your novel. What is it, how do I find it, and is it important to have one?
Because seriously, I have never worried about themes before. I couldn’t tell you the themes of any of my novels. But that’s just me.
What are themes?
I’ve always struggled with theme, because I have no idea what the heck it really is. As far as I’ve been able to gather, theme is the message you’re aiming to give your reader, through your story. The lessons the reader takes away.
There are abstract themes, and then there are more obvious themes.
Popular themes in books
I’ll be honest. This is how I will decide the themes of my books- at least the ones I’ve already written. If you’re struggling, here are some different themes you can explore in your books. And who knows, maybe your theme is here and you haven’t realised it yet.
Good VS Evil
Coming of age
‘The dark side’ sans cookies
How do I find it?
Should you find your theme before, or after plotting a novel? I don’t think it really matters.
Some novels are built around a particular theme. The Hate U give for example has heavy themes of racism. It is the central conflict of the book. You may have a particular message you want to send or talk about. So you choose that theme, and build your characters and plot to fit that theme.
If you plot first, it’s just a matter of finding the theme. Look at your plot and your characters- their goals and motivations and their emotional development. If I were to take Nephilim for example, my MC’s internal goal is to find somewhere she belongs. So somewhere in there could be a coming of age theme as she struggles to find out who she is. She fights against evil so good vs evil could definitely be a theme.
Are they important?
Themes serve to hold a deeper meaning to your novels. They are the core of the story you’re trying to tell, and often times act as the emotional tie to your readers. They serve to create powerful narrative, and create a subtle depth to both the plot and your characters.
So yes, I guess they are important. Especially if you’ve got a specific message you want to send. But if you’ve started writing a book without thinking about the themes, I honestly don’t believe that it’s important you think of one straight away. That can wait until revision.
Most readers might not go looking for theme, but there are some who do. And even if it’s not a major focus, having a theme in mind could help you write- not a better novel, but a more meaningful one. In the end, whether you want to focus on theme or not is up to you, and the story you want to tell.
Good thoughts and happy writing