Blog post #2 of my theme series has come. It’s been a while since the first post (sorry) so if you forgot everything about that post or didn’t read it then, hop over here to read it again (or just scan over the important parts).
Today I’m moving on from the basic ‘what is theme’ and we’re going to dive a little deeper into the next level of theme.
Since theme is the base foundation, the broad topic, we can narrow it down from there. Think of it as a funnel. At the wide end, we have the theme. Slightly farther down the funnel is our next stop: the Focusing Question.
The Focusing Question takes the theme and narrows it down a little. For example:
Focusing Question: How can you keep up hope in the darkness?
In this example, I’ve picked the question “How can you keep up hope in the darkness” but there are other aspects of the theme that could be addressed. The question could shoot from any angle depending on what part of your theme ideal you want to tackle.
The question could just as easily have been “Is hope an illusion?” or “How can hope overcome your adversaries?” These questions tackle the theme from a totally different side but can be just as effective. There isn’t a right and wrong Focusing Question.
The only wrong sort of Focusing Question is one that is too shallow and easy to answer.
If you want to affect people with your novel, it has to go further than just scraping the surface. It has to make them think. It can’t just be easy.
When you can narrow your theme down to a Focusing Question, you then need to find the answer to that question. That answer then becomes your message.
To go back to the example again, how can you keep up hope in the darkness? You could…
- Ignore the darkness
- Cling to the hope from the past
- Wait it out for the darkness to leave
- Try be the hope
All these answers are quite legitimate, and there’s many more ways that question could be answered.
Finding your message (the answer to the Focusing Question that you want to focus on through your story) isn’t going to be easy, as I said. You have to really think.
What is the right, godly way to respond in this situation?
It can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding. Not only will you end up with a more powerful novel, but you will be able to delve into some important aspects of your beliefs and faith.
So, once you narrow your theme-funnel down to a Focusing Question, take lots of time to write out answers to that question. And not just right answers. Find wrong answers too.
Just as some people might answer our example question with “If you look hard enough, hope can always be found somewhere,” they could also answer with “hope doesn’t exist” or “there’s nothing wrong with darkness” or “neither hope nor darkness is worth my time.”
Coming up with those ‘wrong’ answers is just as important, because they will be used very soon…but you’ll have to wait and see for the next post in this series. 😉
What’s the theme and Focusing Question of your novel? How would you answer the example Focusing Question? Let’s theme on in the comments below! 😀