Message in a Novel (NaNo Prep 11)

Fiction supplies the only philosophy that many readers know; it establishes their ethical, social, and material standards; it confirms them in their prejudices or opens their minds to a wider world.  The influence of any widely read book can hardly be overstated. — Dorthea Brande

Image courtesy of Andreas Krappweis via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Andreas Krappweis via stock.xchng

Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assaults of thoughts on the unthinking. — John Maynard Keynes

Words do two major things: They provide food for the mind and create light for understanding and awareness. — Jim Rohn

All words are pegs to hang ideas on. — Henry Ward Beecher

All description is an opinion about the world (as the opening quote of my setting post mentions).

Something in us drives us to write, and even if we can’t name it (yet) it will be tied to the way we see the world, and what it important to us.  Our life themes, if you will.

Image courtesy of Bev Lloyd-Roberts via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Bev Lloyd-Roberts via stock.xchng

Theme is a scary word to a lot of people, and that’s a little sad, because it means that a lot of people are afraid of having an opinion about something– which is sad. And still true.

A writing friend of mine has described to me her string of NaNo books, and they conform, as is right and natural, to the life passages she has experienced. I learned as much about her, and the way her mind works, listening to those novel ideas as I did hearing the pieces of her own life she was willing to share. More, if you can understand it, because I got to see the attitudes and emotions that accompanied those events in a way sitting and talking probably wouldn’t have opened.

Even so, when asked what this year’s NaNo is about (that she is totally planning and head-writing already– Where is November!!?) she shrugs and says, “I’m just writing a story. If it ends up being about something more than the characters, great.

And of course this isn’t true. 😉 (Love you sweetie.)

It’s about something more because she was driven to write it by an imbalance she perceives in our world. There is most definitely something this story is about for her, and it will affect the way the story materializes. She just might not have a name for it yet.

As you grow a body of written work (or maybe just as you find yourself arguing or lecturing people along the same themes– there’s that word again), chances are you will find a set of signature topics, or maybe approaches to topics, that settle in to nest in your psyche.

This is completely healthy and normal, and can become very helpful when we are aware of them.

In the book On Writing (his only I’ve read), Stephen King points out that for all the variety and number of books he’s written there is a recognizable thread running through the body of work– questions about the value of technology and what makes us human.

Image courtesy of Skippy3E via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Skippy3E via stock.xchng

If you have an idea or drive that is close to your heart, there is no reason not to acknowledge it and let it be another engine to draw you through your story process. Let it be part of the “feel” you want your work to exude, an attitude that makes readers say, “Oh, there it is.”

There are actors who decry “type casting,” being picked just because they are known for a particular role, but I’ve read several places that it is the type-casted actors that have the most steady work in a perilous industry, because theirs are the faces that jump to mind when someone is looking to fill a part.

In a similar way, authors develop a brand. Readers know what to expect of a writer’s work, and return to it because it’s what they want to read.

You can (almost) never let your novel use characters’ or the narrator’s words to give a sermon, but we may all hope our books will do what we want our lives to do: preach without words.

Show what is important to you through your life and choices.

Your novel is part of your life, and offers many choices.