ALH Anna Lee Huber

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Readers' Questions - Theme
May 29, 2013

Last week I asked my fans on Facebook whether they had any questions they would like to ask me, and several people responded. Thank you! I plan to answer those questions in a series of blog posts over the following weeks, so stay tuned. And if you have a question you want answered, but missed out on asking, it's not too late. Just send me a message via Facebook, Twitter or by email.

Now, on to today's topic - Theme. Pamela M asked how the theme for each of my book's materializes.

First off, I should explain what theme is in the context of fiction. It is a unifying concept that ties the story together--main plot, subplots, and characters--but is not overtly stated. It is often woven through the tale, offering a particular view of people and/or how they behave. It's not meant to teach or preach, and is subjective to the reader. In other words, I may read a novel and decide its theme is one thing, while you may decide its theme is something completely different. The theme can usually be stated in just a few short words.

When I'm writing, I never set out with a particular theme in mind, but by part way through the first draft, I usually have a pretty good idea around what concept the theme revolves. For me, it materializes naturally from the material I'm dealing with. I strongly suspect it's a creation of my subconscious, which guides my writing, knowing where I'm going and what I ultimately want to say even when my conscious mind does not. Once the theme asserts itself, in the second draft I pay closer attention to it, making certain it is carried over clearly into each subplot, and resolves itself in one way or another.

In the past, I have tried to impose a theme on a story, but whenever I attempt to do that it never works out. It stifles the story. The theme is too much in the forefront, when it should naturally wind through the background. It should never inflict itself on the reader, but instead stealthily slither into their heads, hiding behind the other elements of the story. Readers are smart. They will balk at having a concept thrust at them too forcefully. As I said earlier, it's not meant to teach or preach, and is personal to each reader.

I don't really have any tips or pointers on how to make theme happen, except to trust that your subconscious knows where it is going. And not to try to force it. I will add that I know many authors who know from the very beginning what their book's theme will be, and shape their story around it. If that is the type of writer you are, then by all mean, do so. My only suggestion would be that a light touch is better than a heavy one.

Many of you have read The Anatomist's Wife, Lady Darby Book 1. I would be curious to hear, what was the theme of that book for you?

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