This book doesn’t mean anything.
Am I the only one who shudders at those five words? Usually, authors have many different fears: rejection, bad writing, writer’s block, becoming insane because they daydream about their characters for too long… *raises hand for all of those and hides under covers*
Although, in all seriousness, there is one that usually outweighs them all.
What if my story doesn’t even matter?
What if these words are just words on a page? If one of the reasons we write is to encourage, influence, and uplift people, it would be tragic if our words meant… nothing.
I don’t know about you, but I want my books to spark fire. I want to share something that I know people need to hear. I want to give them hope, beauty, and leave them with a deep feeling true readers always look for.
Hopefully, you know this is possible. You’ve read the books that evoke this kind of emotion. Yet, the question still remains. How do we do this? How do we share these burning messages within our hearts?
How do we make our story mean something?
Emotion Can Spur Action
Raise your hand if you’ve read a book, flipped past a few pages, and then set it down and thought, “This doesn’t even matter. There is no point to this 500-page book.”
Or, have you read another book and found yourself gritting your teeth a few pages in because the author was basically preaching at you. “Don’t do this.” “Do that.” “This character died because they didn’t follow this rule. Better make sure you follow the rules!”
It’s not even constructive teaching. They are just screaming things in your face. The characters could be interesting, the setting might be beautiful, and the prose could be artful but it all seems to wash away. Why?
If you read my blog post from a week ago (Check it out here) you know that we talked about some of the main reasons I write. Hopefully, these reasons are the same for you.
Remember that one of them is to influence the world. To share your message. Writing is a form of communication.
Yet, how do we share people our message without giving them a rule book, causing them to lose sight of the main point? Do we just have to dumb it down so it’s actually pretty meaningless?
Thankfully, this is not the case. Imagine one of your favorite books. The one that left you with that sense of awe.
In these sorts of books, readers realize that they want to learn the lesson the author is teaching. The readers are now encouraged and want to love people that way. They understand the point and why the lesson mattered to them.
One brilliant example is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Now I don’t know about you, but I cried hard at the end of that book. It was just so beautiful. The story made me so thankful that we have a God who is like Aslan. It showed me that we are like Edmund, yet, God is still faithful and loving to His children. That book was used to encourage, uplift, and influence me for the better. I loved Jesus more and I wanted to worship Him.
This is just one example of many. There are so many different emotions that can spur you on to action. Authors shouldn’t feel responsible for making people do certain things but we can give the opportunity for change. We can teach the lesson that we want to share with the world through story.
Examples could be: when siblings forgive it makes me want to love my sister more. A character’s sacrifice makes me want to serve others and have that kind of love. When a villain dies because of their faulty actions, I am warned to never do those things. Trust me, I could go on and on.
As writers don’t we want to spur these actions and emotions?
These stories matter and affect people. Yet, the question still remains: how do we give these emotions, actions, and lessons effectively through our writing?
Theme Through Characters
Don’t cringe. I know that the word theme can sound very dry. We hear the word theme in literature class along with a lot of other words that help us analyze a story. It’s not exactly a fuzzy word.
We all know what theme is generally. Some call it the point behind the story. I like to look at it as the lesson, emotion, or action the writer is trying to convey.
Examples could be pride, greediness, sacrifice, love… the list goes on and on. People choose the message/lesson they are trying to teach and usually, they show this message through their characters. I’m sure you’ve heard of character arcs before. They are basically your character’s internal journey from the beginning of the story to the end.
Usually, they show the character at a place where they have not learned the lesson. As the story plays out you see them change through trials, suffering, and hardship for better or worse. This is the difference between a negative character arc and a positive character arc. And of course, there are characters who don’t even change but those stories are boring, dry, and make me want to tear my hair out.
For example, they might be prideful. If you decided to have a negative character arc negative they might be more prideful at the end. They never learned the lesson and the author is using that character as a warning. Negative character arcs, as you probably guessed, are the key to crafting delicious villains.
However, if it was positive, then they became a selfless and humble person. Now, I’m not diving into characters and their arcs quite yet so that’s just a brief overview of how you use your characters to show your theme. It takes time to insert a theme carefully and powerfully. That’s the beauty of character arcs. As some of you know, characters are my personal favorite aspect of stories. A powerful character clearly shows me the lesson behind the theme. I am not left feeling like I just read a rule book but as if I went on a journey with a friend to learn a practical, meaningful point.
Authors yearn for meaning in their words.
We don’t want to read just words on the page. We want to see life springing from those ink shapes that take up white space. Now that you know what theme is, next week I’m going to show you how you can create and convey this message. It’s going to be totally awesome!
Also, soon we are going to look at how to make… characters! *jumps up and down repeatedly* Trust me guys, we can make them the perfect guinea pigs to teach our readers the message behind the words. *evil author laugh*
Be sure to check out my previous article on What If You Started Your Story Today. Comment below on what your favorite theme is and what impacted you the most! What book showed this theme! Feel free to start the conversation and get the community rolling!
Remember to look out next week for Part 2 and a Case Study on theme! Subscribe so you don’t miss the Theme Worksheet exclusively for subscribers!
Theme is powerful. Authors can be powerful in their words. Enjoy weaving in your theme!
See ya around!