So, it’s onto the fourth book for me now and I thought maybe I should try outlining now. Children of God is a different type of story for me. Each one of my books (Born at Dawn, Seasoned with Grace, Tempted to Touch) have been stand alone books, but none of them have ever been set in the midst of an external conflict.
Children of God is set in the Dominican Republic and will deal with the ramifications of the governments antihaitianismo (anti-Haitian prejudices) which led to a massive overhaul in citizenship status of the Dominican Republics Haitian residents. Particularly this summer. Many Haitians and Dominicans of darker complexions were sent to Haiti (voluntarily and by force). I usually don’t write such charged literature, so I figured I’d need an outline.
Outlining is terribly stifling to me and time consuming when I have so little time to write as it is, but upon engaging in this activity I discovered in addition to the characters and conflict a writer must have a theme in mind that they want to work with it.
Theme is the illusive element of the story that teachers use to torture students with and any good con-artist posing as a student can use it to trick a teacher into thinking that they’ve done some great analysis of a story with the right blend of evidence from the story, but what is theme really for an author?
Generally theme is considered the message of you want readers to take away from the story, for example Love conquerors all. When you work in a particular genre there are often themes that are associated with that genre. I write Christian Fiction. Stories in that genre don’t just honor morality, but often take a biblical theme like there is healing in forgiving someone and expound on that using the narrative.
Let’s elevate the status of theme. Instead of theme being shoved into a car that is driven a character with a huge personality or flaw or riding on the back of a motorcycle with a crazy plot what if theme became the driving force of the novel? What if when outlining and planning we crafted scenes that would illuminate theme?
As I attempted to outline Children of God the less I thought about conflict and plot and the more I thought what’s the point of this? What are the characters supposed to get from these experiences? What is the reader supposed to get from these experiences?
Now, in true Neophyte Author fashion I can tell you that I have some working themes. Will they remain I don’t know because when I write I’m never writing alone I’m working with the author and finisher of my faith, Jesus and His will must supersede mine.
What is the theme of your most recent work or WIP?
Name at least three scenes that develop this–try finding one from the exposition, climax, and denouement (or around there)?
How would you reconstruct those scenes or what would you add to them if you had planned the story with executing the theme as your main objective?
How can you use this thought process to influence your next piece of writing?