Writers can express what they believe through words. Words have the power to encourage, inspire, give hope, change someone’s mind, make people think again about themselves, other people, the world, the meaning of life. Words have power to make the world beautiful, and if we use those words right, we can.
A while ago I read this awesome post on what our mission statement should be as writers and it made me think again about why I write, what I write, and how I want my writing to impact my readers, which inspired me to write this. Everyone has a mission statement: why they are who they are, what they believe, and what they do. Everyone has their own unique way for finding their voice and getting across what they think is right using their talents, gifts, passions, and even hobbies. The way we writers express ourselves, however, is through our writing (yeah, who would have thought?).
So this got me thinking. This is true for stories, which are ultimately made up of words. I believe every story has a certain theme or a message that the author is trying to get across. If you’re a writer who’s not sure they have any theme in their story, hear this: Your story does has one, and you may have not noticed. Let me explain: Mankind invented stories in the first place not just to entertain, but to teach. Pretty much every story will be good vs bad, and usually, in the end, good always prevails (unless it’s a tragedy, but some trajedies if done right have themes of hope and learning from the past). This also brings about other strong themes, such as hope, loyalty, perseverance, friendship, etc. Why are most stories like this? Because we have moral standpoints. I believe that we understand the importance of goodness because the world was founded on just that. I also believe that mankind is in a constant struggle with a great Evil and someday that Evil will perish forever.
Sounds like an epic novel, doesn’t it? Our world’s story is epic, and it’s ingrained in us, and shows through us in our writing, no matter if you’re a Christian or not; we all have moral standpoints that automatically show through us and our life story, ultimately shown in the stories we write. It might sound creepy, but whatever we believe, cling to, or hold dear will automatically show through our writing, even if it’s just a little bit. It takes a lot of guts for a writer to finish a book. The finished product was assembled through sweat, tears, triumph, and defeat … you get the idea. If the writer of a book puts so much work, time, and stress into that story, something important and thus very personal to them is going to show in that story, from a firm belief to life experience. “The most powerful themes are born out of your struggle.” (Emily Tjaden, This Incandescent Life) The question is, are you as a writer afraid to let it show?
So maybe you still say your story doesn’t have any such thing as a theme. Yet. And I still bet it does.
Here is why I think that: About 2 years ago I was hit with inspiration for my current novel Netherworld, which is a WIP I have mentioned before. At first it was just a fun story and I wrote for the heck of it, because I like writing anyways and my other project was a flop. I developed the characters, the world, created conflicts, suspense, drama, story arcs, epic fights and scenes, too many subplots, and now I have such a wonderfully complicated storyline I’m not sure I even completely understand it. Perfect. I had all my outlines, everything fit, characters became my friends, the tension and emotion was intense, now I just had to rewrite the whole thing for the third time. But I felt that I was missing something, and it wasn’t for a long time until I figured out what.
It lacked strong meaning. Or so I thought. “The only theme in the whole story,” I would hiss angrily at myself, “is just that it’s okay to believe other worlds exist.” And I still think that is pretty lame for a major underlying theme. I tried hard to come up with other themes that could impress my future readers, something that would make them go away thinking, but none of them were big enough or fit well. So I was stuck. Until only recently when I realized I had one strong theme all along and it hit me when I wasn’t even thinking about it.
Faith. That’s what it was. It was obvious. Reading through my storylines and what I had of my narrative, it was there, clear as day, that faith and why it is important was the main underlying theme, that secret message, and, best of all, it showed through. Why would I have put it in there without thinking, I asked myself, and the answer was because I wrote it. No one else could have written it just like that because what made it unique was my life experience, my struggle, and it showed through. And once I saw the main theme of my story, I found several other morals: the importance of family, loyalty, friendship, standing for what you think is right. I was so excited I decided to make a writing schedule, and that’s saying something.
Your story has a theme. Which means it also has moral and meaning. Why? Because you wrote it. You wrote that story that no one else could and that’s what makes it special in its own little unique way. You can write. Why can you write? Just ’cause it’s a hobby and it’s fun? Noooope. It started like that, but you can use your writing to tell the world what you believe is important. Through writing, you can find your own voice and tell people all about it. You can convey and express beautiful and powerful things through your writing. Even if it’s just a story.
So I encourage you. Don’t spend days and weeks trying to force a theme into your story. Search for it, because it’s already there. I believe that no one can write a story without even a little moral, and neither can you (unless it’s a horrible story, which shouldn’t count as one). And I’m not saying here that if you just start a story it will automatically become very meaningful with a strong theme. It takes courage to write about what’s most important to you and once you let it through your writing, you’ll see it. Start by just writing what you know and then you’ll find that theme, that something you want other people to realize. You’ll identify it and you’ll be surprised. Expand on that, make it bigger. Don’t try to make it show; you could end up preaching. Just write and slowly reveal it so it shines through beautifully. Sit in front of that computer screen and crank up the power. Just a notch’ll do. Give your readers something to think about, to hope for … nay, give them that hope, inspiration, joy, that power that can only come through pain, that fight to win. For Zark’s sake, give them a Sam Gamgee.
This is your creative outlet. You have the power and potential to express yourself and what you think is important, to convey messages and make people think again. You are a writer and that means you can write all of that with words. This is your real-life superpower, and how are you going to wield that power?
Write that story.