You don’t have to have a college degree in English or comparative literature to read a novel and see the themes it carries. Every story we read or watch or hear has a theme as part of its foundation. Finding the themes in your novel and emphasizing them will give your story more meaning.
I recently finished reading Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. I absolutely loved the book. Even though it was a sci-fi story about a virtual reality game, it made me take a hard look at my own life, all because of the themes it carried. The big theme it addressed, in my opinion, was the dichotomy between what is real, and what isn’t. This might
seem obvious at first, as the book is about a virtual reality, but it really makes you think about it. Which relationships in life are real, and which aren’t? Wade, the hero of the story, has a crummy home life, and he’s only met his best friends in a virtual reality. Of course, there are some risks involved with online relationships, namely that you don’t really know who you’re interacting with. It introduces lots of questions. Reading Ready Player One made me re-examine what was actually important to me.
I’ve also been reading Shakespeare’s Sonnets. (I know, I know, that’s pretty different from Ready Player One, but I’m a big Shakespeare fan. And this just proves that you can find theme in anything.) You probably had to read one or two of his sonnets in high school, and maybe you don’t have a taste for them. That’s understandable, because they aren’t easy to read. So I’ll just summarize. A lot of his sonnets deal with the same themes — age, beauty, love, and relationships (just to rattle off a handful). He uses symbolism to ask big questions about these concepts. For example, what’s the purpose of beauty if we’re all going to age out of it (according to him)? These themes recur throughout the sonnets.
How do we spot the themes in our own writing? Start by asking yourself what’s important to you, then look for instances where those important things make some kind of an appearance in your writing. A novel can reveal a lot about an author.
I’ve noticed that in every novel I’ve written, brotherhood comes into play. Almost none of my main characters in any of my stories have been an only child. Almost all of them had a brother, usually, or a brother-figure. This has always been interesting to me, because in my family, I’m the oldest of four kids, with three younger brothers. I never set out to place that pattern in my works, but there it is. My brothers mean a lot to me. So much, I guess, that they’ve made appearances in virtually every story I’ve ever written.
What themes do you see in your writing? Have you noticed any patterns? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.
As usual, if you would like to sign up for my mailing list, you can do that here, and remember, keep writing!