Building Theme (RWA 2010 Blog Series)

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Today’s post focuses on Suzanne Brockman’s RWA 2010 Workshop called “Building Theme”.  Why should we even bother thinking about theme before writing our novel? 

A theme is a single unifying idea that informs and comments on society.  So a theme in a book is a statement on society.  When writing romance novels, obviously the biggest theme in each of your books is the concept of love, or love conquers all.  But there are other themes that are pervasive in novels.  These are the concepts that make the novels fit together.  A reader might not even identify theme, but it’s something that makes a book satisfying to your reader.  It moves them, and readers pick up a book in order to be moved in some way.

Suzanne talks about how she plans her series to have one central theme, such as the theory of infinite combinations in love.  She has brought gay or multi-cultural couples into her series books to support this central theme. 

So once you have your theme, what do you do with it?  It should be layered into your story.  Just a bit of dialogue here, or a few hints there, are enough to shape your story and make it powerful to your reader.

One of the big themes in my current WIP is the power of family (or you are not alone).  My hero has three brothers.  In order to support my theme, I have several scenarios where my hero tries to do things without his brothers’ help (or in direct contravention of them), and the results aren’t good!  Basically my hero learns that he and his brothers work better together than apart, that nothing is more powerful than family.

So, do you consciously think of your theme before writing a novel?  Do you make an effort to weave your theme into the story?  Or do you find that inclusion of your theme is more of an organic process (something you do without even noticing)?

Please join me on Friday for a discussion of the Doin’ It with Dialogue Workshop.



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