As an author, you need to learn to express your book’s theme.
For your book to stick in the mind of the reader, it is going to need to have a theme. Without a theme, your book is going to lose a lot of value. While many people do not like to talk about themes, they are one of the most important aspects of a novel.
Before you panic, finding your book’s theme is not hard. A lot of writers are intimidated by the theme. This is for a large part because it is not as straightforward as learning to write dialogue or descriptions.
When I used to sit in English class and my teachers used to talk about how the great classic authors emphasized their themes in scenes I would get discouraged. I had no clue how to do that. The truth is, it is not too complicated. It actually comes naturally more times than not.
What is a Book’s Theme?
A book’s theme is the central idea of the novel, and the main takeaway the reader should receive from the book. In short stories, there is usually a single theme. However, due to their size novels can have many themes, but there is typically one main theme that stands out from the rest.
In many ways, the theme of your book is the message you are presenting to the reader. It is what can be learned from your book. Some themes are quite basic while others carry extremely deep meanings.
Some popular themes include love, friendship, good vs. evil, revenge, redemption, and death. While these themes are powerful they are simple in nature. More complex themes might be the cost of war, rich v.s poor, and the human condition.
Also, before you panic about the theme, you should note that every book has one. You may not have thought about the theme when you first wrote your draft but the chances are you subconsciously included one. It may not be as well pronounced as it should be, but I promise you it is there.
Common Mistakes Made When You Express Your Book’s Theme
As with everything in writing, there are things you can do wrong. This is no different from a book’s theme.
Specifically, there are two mistakes you can make related to a book’s theme. The first is ignoring the theme entirely. The second is shoving the theme down the reader’s throats.
The reason you should not ignore the theme is that it can be the most powerful aspect of your novel. It should be in the background of all your key scenes. A strong theme with a presence through your novel can get the reader thinking about your book even after they set it down. It is a great tool to make a true impact on the reader.
What you do not want to do is spoon-feed the theme to the reader. Shoving the theme in the reader’s face will simply take them right out of the story. It will become painfully obvious what you are doing and the reader will find it obnoxious.
At no point in your story should you flat out state what the theme is? The events of your story should speak for themselves. Outright stating the theme is simply lazy writing.
You also do not want every other sentence to be reflecting on your theme. The theme of the story should be present of course, but it should not be overwhelming.
Finding Your Book’s Theme
Before you can express your book’s theme you need to find it. Sometimes the theme of your book turns out to be something else than you thought it was, and that is just fine!
The first step to finding the theme of your story is by taking note of the emotions each scene makes you feel. You should also take note of the characters’ reactions to these emotions and how these emotions tie into the plot.
You also want to look at the plot of your story as a whole. What was the conflict of your story and how was it resolved? What lessons did your characters learn through the events of the story? This should lead you directly to your book’s theme.
Remember your book can have multiple themes. Do not worry if you have multiple answers to these questions. They are both your books’ themes. It does not have to be one or the other.
Express Your Book’s Theme
Now that you have a proper understanding of the theme and its impact on a novel, here is how you can express it better.
You should start in your critical scenes and see if there are ways you can add emphasis to the theme. Great ways to do this are through the emotions of the characters or the tone of the scene. Again, while you want to make sure your theme is pronounced in these scenes, you do not want to shove it in your readers’ faces.
Another thing you want to do is check for scenes that do not contribute to the theme. See if there are changes you can make so that they do. These changes can be extremely subtle, but they can make a huge difference.
Finally, you can make your theme more pronounced through your characters. Ways you can do this are hinting at it in their thoughts and dialogue. Again, when I say hinting I mean hinting. Too much is never a good thing.
Every book has a theme, including yours. Sometimes you just need to find it and bring it out a little more.
Themes are the overall message of the novel. They are what you want the reader to take away from your book and therefore they are extremely important.
Remember not to overdo it when it comes to bringing out your theme. A subtle theme is way more powerful than an overstated one. Make the reader think!