Theme Along With Me

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I’ve finally finished Shadows of Home, my romantic-suspense novel set in Louisiana and am now attempting to start the sequel to Breaking TWIG. Problem is, when I wrote Breaking TWIG, I never figured on writing a sequel until so many readers asked me to continue Becky’s story. How did life in Paris work out for her? Did she have a child? And the number one question readers asked: Did Becky and Johnny end up together? Now, as possible sequel scenes swirl in my brain, I once again face the adversary of all writers—the blank white page.

When I wrote Breaking TWIG, I had a question niggling my mind. When raised in an abusive home, why do some children grow up and repeat the abusive pattern with their children, while others manage to break free and become loving, supportive parents? Finding an answer to this question lodged in my subconscious, and it wasn’t until I’d written two-thirds of the book that I realized this was the book’s theme. Frankly, I didn’t give a thought to theme in the beginning. I just wanted to tell the story of Becky’s quest to survive her childhood as it unfolded in my mind.

I’ve read books on the craft of writing a novel that state emphatically that a writer should never consciously insert or apply a “theme.” Somehow, the theme of your book (if it has one) will reveal itself through your characters’ action and dialogue. Trying to force a theme onto your characters can come off as “preachy.” Yet other writing experts insist the writer must provide via the narrative a theme or several themes to give the characters depth and show the deeper meanings embedded in the book.

Thus the question arises–to theme or not to theme? Should you have a theme(s) in mind from the get-go? Or do you wait for the theme to effervesce through your narrative like bubbles through champagne? What works for you?

In Breaking TWIG, I wrote about the lives of three people who’d suffered mental, emotional, or physical abused by their parent. Two overcame their obstacles and became strong, loving adults. One could not break out of the pattern of abuse she’d known as a child. What made the difference in their lives? This became the major theme of the book. Perhaps Becky said it best, “Having one person who loves and believes in you is all a girl needs to keep hope alive.”

250,000 smallThanks for stopping by ~~Deborah

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