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  • Jared Viljoen

Day 8 - Central themes of the novel


Those elusive, nebulous ideas at the heart of great stories.

Some novelists may not really consider theme too extensively before they start writing. You just have a great idea for a scene or character and want to dive right in there and start writing. Which is absolutely fine. That's kinda what I like to do too.

But, I've become more converted to the power of understanding your theme / controlling idea (for a great discussion on this listen to Shawn Coyne, the author of the Story Grid).

Why would understanding the theme / controlling idea of your story be important? Well, for one, it helps you know what story you are writing. And, I don't just mean plot points here. I mean what your story is about. For example, is it about loss, or revenge, or a father learning to let go. These things are different from plot, but they most definitely inform plot.

Knowing what your theme / controlling idea is can really help you decide on what scenes should or should not be included, or help you know when characters work or they don't. The theme / controlling idea is the meaning at the heart of your story. Now, some books get written and it's not clear what the theme is. Which is fine. But, generally the great novels, the ones that really move us, have some central ideas and themes swirling about at their heart.

So, what is your controlling idea / theme?

In this video, I explore what the themes / controlling ideas of my novel-in-embryo might be and it looks like there are some definite central ideas starting to form.

The Naked Writer is supported by The Writer's MoJo: the ultimate writer's notebook.

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