Author Theme and Why it is Important
by Vicki Hinze
Regardless of how much planning you do as an author, it's of little value to you unless you write. But then we often get bogged down on what to write. There are so many options!
Naturally, we want to write to our strengths--be those strengths, plotting, characterization, suspense, romance, or comedy. But when deciding what to write as a career choice--you'll have to write more of the same types of books, so this is important (reader expectation shouldn't be violated!)--it's a good idea to see what kind of stories best frame your strengths and in which kinds of stories the writing comes naturally to you. That's where Author Theme is invaluable.
An author's theme has little to do with the subject matter of an author's body of work, which can be extremely diverse, but refers to the common thread that appears in all of the author's works--regardless of their genre, style, or novel theme.
Every writer has an author's theme: a recurring similarity in all of his/her works. My theme, for example, is healing. Every book that I have written, whether it is a political thriller, military suspense, romantic suspense, paranormal, paranormal romance, category romance, fantasy, or philosophical/religious inspirational, contains that similarity. In the books, the characters will confront their most feared challenge, handle it constructively, and heal.
Some of the other author themes are Protector, Nurturer, living with small town challenges, those based in faith or trust (or a lack thereof). Others are ones of domination, abuse, manipulation, and so on. There are a wide variety of author themes. But regardless of what kind of story the author writes, that theme is present.
Now, don't confuse author theme with novel theme. They are two separate and distinctly different entities. The novel theme can be anything, the author theme remains the same, book to book, because it comes from the essential core of the individual writer--who that writer is as a human being, what s/he believes in, his or her perspective and experiences, his or her hopes and dreams and fears. This author theme is a large part of why no other writer can ever write your same book--ever. Because other authors approach the same story from their own perspective, their experiences and hopes and dreams and fears feed into the work and change it. The author's unique individuality is expressed, and can't be edited out. It's too much a part of any novel's intricacies that the writer writes.
When authors write within their author theme, they are creating works in harmony with themselves, respecting their gift and remaining true to themselves as human beings. These qualities infuse the work, and the writing comes easier to the authors because it is natural to them, a reflection of their own inner-purpose, which is why writers most often select the specific works and stories they choose to write.
When authors write outside their author theme, they are creating works that are not in harmony with themselves and/or their core purposes. That lack of harmony drains the strength from the work. The writer can't infuse the writing with that which does not exist--there is no reflection to reflect. So the work loses its power, its potential, and that means it's going to give the writer screaming fits at trying to write it. The books that have you pulling out your hair when trying to write them are more often than not those that are not in harmony with your author's theme.
Let me try to give you an example to make this clear. In DUPLICITY, I explored the story of a man who is deemed guilty of horrendous crimes he didn't commit. He's one of the two protagonists. He's carrying a lot of emotional baggage (Can anyone over twelve escape that?), unearths a conspiracy that requires him to allow himself to look guilty in the eyes of all others when he is in fact innocent. Why? To protect his country from chemical contamination.
Now how he goes about this is where my healing theme comes into the picture. For him to be a protagonist in my book, I have to respect and admire him. I have to believe that he is strong and capable and sharp enough to carry his story role in this novel. He's tough, he's smart, he's savvy. But he is also protective of those who believe him guilty. That's the point of his healing. When, by his own will, he chooses to protect his accusers, risking everything he has to risk, including his life. That selfless act is a constructive-solution vehicle to the healing within for him.
Now that storyline fits within my Author's Theme of Healing. But what if he had not been willing to risk everything, to make the sacrifices required to enlighten him and lead him to awareness for his own constructive healing? What if the storyline had altered and instead he chose not to commit the selfless acts?
I would have been having fits at trying to justify his position as a protagonist in my book because I would not respect or admire him. I would have been having fits because I wouldn't be able to accept him as heroic when I viewed his actions as cowardice. The vehicle for him to heal would not exist, and that means I would be attempting to write a story that is not in harmony with me. I'd be snatching myself bald and insanity would reign because, while I might be working totally within the novel's theme, I would not be working within my author theme.
As you can see, it is vitally important for the writer to recognize his/her own Author Theme. This also gives the writer insight as to why s/he prefers specific author's works as a reader. Those authors, you'll discover, have author themes that are compatible with your own.
With permission All Rights Reserved. © 2003 Vicki Hinze
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