Monday, August 15, 2011

What's It All About?

As I labor through the early stages of writing my next novel, Proximity, I find that it’s worth considering the role that theme plays in fiction.

When we place a book in a genre, that can suggest a certain theme by itself. We can presume that a literary novel, for example, will give us some insights into human nature. A mystery will be a search for truth. Science fiction will treat the promise or consequences of technology. A thriller will demonstrate the resourcefulness of the seemingly overmatched hero. Et cetera.

But most successful novels, I think, have a central theme that transcends category. This may seem obvious when discussing literary fiction, but it is also true for most so-called “category” fiction. In all cases, the theme may be pre-ordained by the original intention of the author, it may flow logically from the overall subject matter, or it may arise on its own as a byproduct of the author’s efforts to lend depth to the story.