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Themes May 23, 2013

Posted by thejinx in enduring chaos, writing.
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A good book leaves an impact on you after reading it. Perhaps it sheds light on a social issue that you don’t often consider, perhaps it makes you re-evaluate your actions or beliefs, or perhaps it’s as simple as making you feel richer for having read it, to feel more complete or want to get more out of life.

Do authors intend to leave such a mark on readers when they write? Probably.

As for me, I never go into a book with that in mind. Not that I’m claiming anything as regards to the quality or effect of my works; that’s up to readers, as is the interpretation itself. The ‘theme’ of a novel is not something I necessarily define beforehand and stick to throughout the book. I might have a message I wish to share that presents itself fairly clearly – as was the case with Aurius – but it’s more a result of the writing rather than the other way around. My focus when I’m writing is on the story. Naturally, this involves character growth, which ultimately defines the theme of the work, but it’s not something I have in mind when I begin writing.

Consequently, the message of the story can surprise me sometimes.

Enduring Chaos has proven particularly interesting in this case. I’ve learned a lot over the years of developing the story and ending up with my final draft. In particular, fleshing out the characters has resulted in some eye-opening truths for me.

With Aurius, the message/theme was fairly simplistic, as were the characters – a pretty safe move for a debut novel. I tried to explore the concepts in more detailed ways, but it’s still a pretty simple concept. As for Halcyon, I didn’t spend too much time developing the characters at all. The story itself was the focus there.

In that regard, Enduring Chaos is a much more sophisticated work than those two. The characters are complex with varied motivations, and the way the story unfolded as a result of those personalities resulted in some things I didn’t expect.

When you like your characters, it’s very easy to want to let them win. Sure, they have to face and overcome obstacles along their path, but when they’re dealing with something outside the plotline through which they grow, I want to let them have the upper hand. With this story, that manifest a few times in letting a character have the last word.

Had I not developed these characters so thoroughly, I might never have questioned the scenes in which a certain character has the last word in an argument/discussion. But when I came to one of those scenes fairly early in the story while editing, I realized the other character in the conversation wouldn’t agree with the first character’s method of ending it, and the dialogue took a different turn from there.

That one change ended up impacting the story, and those characters’ relationship, throughout the rest of the novel and even lays down the foundation of the theme of the entire trilogy. And it’s something that still affects me personally and has me thinking frequently about my interactions with others. Just because that’s the way the characters reacted to each other.

Other aspects of the story that have grown organically simply based on how the characters interact have left an imprint on my consciousness. One event that I added in during my edits that was meant as development for a secondary character, upon rereading and fleshing out reactions, has left a much greater impression on a POV character, in a way that affects said character throughout the rest of the trilogy. It even entirely changes the meaning of one of the character’s closing lines in the book, one that was already full of meaning. And the actions in that plot point – and its repercussions – are frequently on my mind since I developed that.

Writing this story, and this draft in particular, has been a very profound journey. I can’t say whether this book will have an impact on readers, but it certainly has left one on me.

What books have left an impact on you? Do you carefully plan out the theme of your work before you begin writing? Does it change as you go along? Does your writing ever surprise you in a fundamental way?

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