Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Novel Themes - Author Life

Continuing the idea of "message" from the last blog...

I am a University English Professor.

It's one of my proudest occupations. When I was a student, my FULL TIME JOB was to analyze literature, find themes, identify characters and traits, look for symbols, and work out the deeper meaning in each piece of literature I read.

Now it's my job to teach others to do the same. It's critical thinking on an amazing level and it something everyone should have some experience with. Critical thinking on this level is what opens our hearts and minds and prevents prejudice and ignorant Facebook reposts.

Looking for themes helps develop critical thinking. Good novels will have a theme that connects to the greater outside world, even if it's just subtle.

I always had it in my head that most authors had these themes in mind when they started writing. That the themes drove a lot of the writing more than the characters.

So when I started writing my own novels, I had it in my head that I would never write the next "Great American Novel" or anything that an English class would want to analyze because I never thought I'd have any great themes in it. I just wanted to write a story.

But as time went on and I explored my characters and world more, I realized that I actually have a TON of deep themes.

Family. Self-sacrifice. Forgiveness. Love. Friendship. War. Brokenness. Mistakes. Racism. Prejudice.

Somehow all these things popped up in my novels. I never planned any of them.

Funny how that works.

A friend of mine suggested that those themes pop up in my novels because they're important to me. I have them on the brain.

I believe this is true. Family is extremely important to me. Self-sacrifice is something I value. Forgiveness is something I've wrestled with myself and I see the consequences of hanging on to thing rather than forgiving them. Love of all kinds, friendship, romantic, family, whatever, is also very important to me.

And of course, the negative things are important too. War is horrific. I hate reading about it, but it is a part of life and it does no good to ignore it. War creates brokenness, but other life things do as well. Mistakes, for example. Racism. Prejudice. All things that ruin a joyful life.

These are things that are important to me. It's important that I talk about these things in my writing. But I never set out to have these themes. They just came out. It's funny that I had to employ my critical thinking and literary analysis skills on my own writing to find them though.

What themes are important in your writing? What themes do you like to read about?

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