How often have you read a book with great mean hidden deep within its story? I truly believe anyone can find meaning in just about anything they read. We don’t always look for it though. Why? Because we are so engrossed with what is going on in the story that we aren’t focused on what we can learn from it. In these instances I think anything learned goes straight to our unconscious mind. Now, I’m not a psychiatrist or a psychologist or anything, but to me it’s only common sense.
As an author, I want my readers to gain meaning from what I write. As I mentioned above, not everyone will on the surface. This doesn’t mean we don’t create meaning in our stories. After all, the stories we write have to have some kind of meaning to them in order for there to be a story. Actually, we call it Theme. Finding a theme to center your story around can be daunting at times. Seriously, you can be sitting there in front of your computer wondering what theme to use. In the meantime your story is dying to be written.
The solution is simple. Just start writing your story. The theme will develop itself or will unfold in your mind, and you will have an “A-ha!” moment. This is how I write. I know that sounds backwards, but it works for me. Once you have your theme (a meaning your story centers around), put it down on paper. Yes, literally, write it down. Then go into more detail about it. For example, how can you develop your characters around your chosen theme? In which direction can you take your story now that you have your theme? Will your settings connect to it in any way? What about dialogue? How can you use your theme to increase tension?
Continue to ask yourself these questions. Then answer each of them. Again, do this on paper, not your computer. The act of writing helps it to stick in your brain better. At least it does for me. When you feel you’ve developed your theme enough, go back to your story and continue writing. All the while, you will be using what you wrote down about your theme in various parts of your story.
When I was half way finished with my second book, I realized I didn’t have a theme. As a result, it was becoming increasingly difficult to continue with the story. Then it dawned on me what the problem was. Lack of a theme. It didn’t take me long to figure out what it should be because I knew the direction I wanted my story to go. Plus I knew my main character well. All I had to do was go back and look at his character sketch. The answer was right there. It smacked me in the face, so to speak. Without that theme, the story fell flat.
Once I found it though, I had to go back to the beginning of what I had already written and insert story elements that developed that theme. It wasn’t hard to do. It was just time consuming. But I loved every minute.