My first novel had a theme. It was Teamwork. Starstrikers was about a Sci-Fi Special Forces team so that made perfect sense. So far, all the books in my Star Saga series have a theme that can be expressed in a single word. Here are the three books of the Starforgers Trilogy. Two have been written and the third will be written this year.
Starforgers, Book 1 – Revenge
The Rising, Book 2 – Death
Counterattack, Book 3 – Redemption
The themes are directly related to the main character’s story arch. But if you examine the plots of these books you will find more than just the main character mirrored in the theme. Often secondary characters also reflect the theme and the plots all back up the theme with a story centered on it. This is not by accident. When I planned out this trilogy, I knew who the central character was, and I knew what needed to happen plot wise in all three books so that her character would have an arch.
When I wrote Starforgers I darn sure knew it was all about revenge. If you don’t have a theme in mind when you go into a novel, its not something that you can bolt on later. It becomes part of the story DNA and it also shapes your main character. If you have read Starforgers, think back to the story and see how many times the main character has to deal with revenge. It’s almost too heavy handed. I mean, I really hit the reader over the head with it multiple times. From the moment we first meet the heroine, she’s looking for a bad guy who she believes has killed her husband. In fact, she’s been looking for this bad guy for many years. It’s shaped her character and given her a rugged determination that carries her through all the horrible things she will face in this book. Revenge has tempered her steel and fuels her actions throughout the book. It also leads her down a dark path that she later has to come to terms with. That’s what the next two books are all about. The main character dealing with the results of her revenge from the first book.
The Rising has gone through many iterations before settling on the current, final version. First it was just going to be about a trial. Then it was going to also include a whole subplot about the Votainion Empress. Before long it was turning into an epic the size of a Fantasy novel. I was straying off my theme and I had completely left out my heroine! Much debate and thought later and I started focusing the story on the main character and how events in the plot affected her. Or perhaps more like how she could help move the events forward and make them relevant to her. Once I kept that theme in mind, and focused the story through the lens of the main character, things started to fall into place. More than one person in the book is forced to come to terms with Death, the novel’s theme. But none more than the hero. And how she deals with it causes her problems that she will eventually have to solve in Book 3.
I can’t go into much more detail about the themes for books that nobody has read yet. But I did want to stress the importance of having a theme and letting it help guide your story and make the story mean something in the end.