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Monday, September 26, 2016

SHOULD BOOKS HAVE A DEFINITE THEME? @celiayeary @rebecccajvickery

What makes a good book?
There are myriad reasons, but the over-riding one is trouble, spelled with a Capital T. Your characters must be in some kind of Trouble, a conflict that leads to...more problems and trouble.
These make us care enough about a story to keep turning the pages. The conflict always has something to do with one or more of the following Dramatic Themes:

Healing (wounded hero or heroine)
Redemption (righting past wrongs)
Second Chance
Transformation (change)

There are many themes—these are only a few of the major ones to set up Conflict.
We don't want to be hit over the head with Theme. A good author will write so that it emerges from the story. We don't need to be told.

Most book club discussions revolve around the discussions of Theme. This might be a good way for an author to self-review his/her book. "What is the underlying theme?"
One of my book club’s selections was To Kill a Mockingbird, a novel we chose to fulfill our commitment to read one classic per year.
The members gave numerous ideas of theme for this famous novel, but the one that stood out was Morality and Judgment. Another one mentioned was Good vs. Evil.  

As an author, do you (a) invent a story, which has a predetermined theme, or (b) do you create and write, and in doing so, a theme emerges?
Do you ever think about the Theme?

~*~TEXAS DREAMER is one of my "Texas" novels. In this story, Lee King realizes he has hurt his family by running away at age fourteen, and during his adult years, decides to re-connect and ask forgiveness. The theme: Redemption and Second Chance.

BLURB-Texas Dreamer
Lee King is a dreamer. When he realizes he was born under a lucky star, he went for the jackpot and won. But winning a big prize isn't the same as keeping it safe from interlopers and greedy fortune hunters--including women. When oilman Tex McDougal crosses his path, Lee believes he has found the perfect man to help him. His daughter, Emilie McDougal, while not a buxom beauty, impresses him with her intelligence, her courage, and her selflessness. Could he strike a financial bargain with her? One that would suit them both?

Emilie McDougal has no family except her father, and she has followed in his footsteps from age one. When Lee King enters their lives, she begins to dream--for the first time in her life. She only wants one thing from Lee, one tiny thing that would make her life complete.

Would he agree to her counter-bargain?
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/celiayeary 
99Cents for a full-length novel.
Celia Yeary
Romance, and a little bit of Texas


  1. Good food for thought here, Celia. I never start with a theme.
    I have a story in my head and I begin writing it. I don't ever have a complete plot when I begin. (Yes, I'm a panster/panser?)The theme takes care of itself and may be interpreted differently by different readers. In one book I wrote, To Those Who Wait, the publisher defined the theme as upbeat, which surprised me. I had always thought of it as hopelessness! I'm sure I would be a better writer if I followed the rules, but I don't. Maybe I'm just lazy?

    1. Following all the rules doesn't make a good book. Talent and a great desire to tell a story does.
      I remember To Those Who Wait, and also remember the publisher calling it upbeat. Uh, no..not upbeat. Poignant and deep, yes, but hot upbeat.
      I'm a pantster, too, and never really know where this story is going. In my current WIP about Noel, the Mail Order Bride,the imagined scenario did not pan out because another character stepped in for his role, and dang if he didn't steal the show.
      Ain't it fun?

    2. Celia, I have to respond to your comment about a character with a mind of his/her own who just "takes over" the story no matter how you try to keep that character in check. Jake Elrod did that in Give It All You've Got. He was supposed to be the villain and he became the hero!

  2. I tend to use the trope to wend my story, and from that, a theme can evolve. And, if I'm using a specific season, I let that interweave as part of the plot to guide it along.


    1. Denise--you must be a bit over my head. I had to look up the word "trope." But I do understand. Actually, most books don't begin with a theme--it emerges.
      When my book club (University Women's Book Club) re-read To Kill a Mockingbird, and our moderator asked about the theme, we had at least three different themes, all which fit the story. Thanks for your input.

  3. I don't consciously have a theme, although one may evolve as I write the story. I was once asked in an interview how I used the volcano as a symbol in Changing the Future. My first reaction was 'Huh?' but when I actually thought about it, I realised there was an analogy between the volcano and the development of the relationship in the story, even though I hadn't planned it!

    1. Isn't that interesting? When I read this book, I thought the volcano represented the changing of the future. However, some relationships definitely take on the persona of something big and explosive. Thanks, Paula.

  4. Wonderful post! All of my stories have a theme, because that's how my creative mind works. For instance in my latest story due out this fall the theme is starting a new life, both for the teenage Billy and the romantic couple he tries to help.

    1. Gerald--I'll bet you write fast, too, since you begin with a theme. And this is why my writing is slow and drawn-out--I have to wait and see what my theme is.
      I suppose, though, some stories have a natural theme such as Texas Dreamer. Redemption was the first thing on my mind when I created Lee King.
      Thanks for your support--I always enjoy reading your comments.

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  6. I think about theme with every story I write. The first writing course I took instructed us to write one sentence stating the theme before we begin to write. Over the years I have stopped doing that, but I haven't stopped determining the theme for each story. I'm a plotter, so theme comes naturally in developing a story. I imagine, if I was a panster, it would be more difficult to discover the theme. But, without theme there is no story.
    A very good blog, Celia. It's always good to be reminded about the essentials of writing.

    1. That's like writing a topic sentence in English 101. Right? I remember now I hated to write an essay because if I did think of a good topic sentence, my essay often didn't fit. So..that's why we're having this discussion.
      I love your books and that each does have a definite theme. Excellent.
      Thank you!

    2. While we're having this discussion, Celia, I have a question. I have often heard a story is either plot driven or character driven. I'm a plotter, but not rigid about it. I have changed things when a character or situation just didn't fit. However, I have found this plot/character driven terminology confusing. Because I have an outline for my stories, does that mean my stories are plot driven? And, if they are plot driven, does that mean my characters are not important to the plot? I've never understood this.

    3. Sarah--I'm not an expert. I feel that my stories are character driven. By that I mean I don't truly care about the plot, although it better be good...fast paced with some purpose. But I do care about the characters, especially the main characters. This is the best explanation I can give. Sorry I'm not more help!

  7. May I add a comment here, Sarah? I personally feel if when you read a story (or write one, I suppose) the thing you remember is what it was about, it is plot driven. But if you remember a character or characters first, then it is character driven. That is my simple way of deciding for what it's worth.

    1. Linda, thank you for that explanation. And Celia, I appreciate you answering my question as well. I think I understand it now. It's a good feeling to know I can count on you both to help me understand these things.


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Thank you for your interest and input.