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Terry D
July 10th, 2017, 05:30 PM
I'm pushing toward the finish of my current WIP. I know where it's headed and am starting to reel-in all the loose ends. Of course, after that, the work of making it the best it can be starts. Lots left to do, but it's all stuff that doesn't demand as much creativity, so my mind has been working on the next book -- at least I think it will be the next book. That's where my question in my thread title came from.

The book in question is going to be different from what I've written before. The story that wants to be written is an apocalyptic tale and it feels like it needs to be written on a grand scale, and that has me thinking about theme, which is strange, because I never consider theme at the beginning of a book. This time, however, the question nags at me: "What is the book going to be about?" Not the plot. The plot will take care of itself. But what the hell do I have to say about TEOTWAWKI?

Stephen King says he doesn't consider theme until the first draft is done. At that point he looks for the theme and develops it as part of his revision process. Some writers won't start a book without knowing what the theme will be, crafting the entire story around it as they write. Some never worry about it, letting their readers find it for themselves.

Thoughts?

Non Serviam
July 10th, 2017, 07:41 PM
Arguably, the first science fiction novelist was a teenage girl called Mary Shelley. Almost everyone has read Frankenstein. Much less widely-read is her apocalyptic novel The Last Man, but I would urge anyone who wants to write an end-of-the-world novel to read it. It's about a plague. Shelley's basic themes are salvation (and I use that word in a humanist sense; as a 19th century widow Shelley was obliged to pay lip service to Christianity but there's no trace of it in her fiction); isolation; and loss. Distinct from her themes, her point is about the need for political reform. The characters are almost incidental.

But Shelley does have characters. In the next important apocalyptic novel, The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, there are none. There are five cardboard cutouts ---- the narrator, his brother, his wife, the parson and the artilleryman ---- but none of them even have names. Their purpose is to be windows onto the dark future Wells has envisaged. Its theme of course is invasion. Distinct from his theme, his point is about colonialisation, in which Wells imagines what it's like to be attacked by a vastly technologically superior force, and shows the British Empire as the victim of what it had so often perpetrated.

There are thousands of subsequent end-of-the-world novels, most of which aren't actually about the end of the world. They're about love and death. Stephen King himself does this with The Stand --- the end of the world is a backdrop, not the subject of the work. (There are of course important exceptions that really are about the end of the world, of which my personal favourite is Niven and Pournelle's criminally underrated Lucider's Hammer.)

You asked:-


But what the hell do I have to say about TEOTWAWKI?

If you don't know the answer then don't write a book about the end of the world. Write a book about love and death with the end of the world happening in the background.

H.Brown
July 10th, 2017, 11:18 PM
I have never really thought of themes when I write. Focusing on the main plot and the sub plots, the characters and settings. But after your question I thought over my WIP as a whole and realised the themes had wrote themselves into my story. So maybe just write and see what happens.

Terry D
July 11th, 2017, 09:13 PM
There are thousands of subsequent end-of-the-world novels, most of which aren't actually about the end of the world. They're about love and death. Stephen King himself does this with The Stand --- the end of the world is a backdrop, not the subject of the work. (There are of course important exceptions that really are about the end of the world, of which my personal favourite is Niven and Pournelle's criminally underrated Lucider's Hammer.)

You asked:-



If you don't know the answer then don't write a book about the end of the world. Write a book about love and death with the end of the world happening in the background.

Lucifer's Hammer is a great book, and I'll probably re-read it before starting on my book (I'm currently re-reading The Stand [the full, 1200 page un-cut version]). I might also pull Robert R McCammon's, Swan Song off the shelf too. Your point about writing a story about love and death is a solid one.


I have never really thought of themes when I write. Focusing on the main plot and the sub plots, the characters and settings. But after your question I thought over my WIP as a whole and realised the themes had wrote themselves into my story. So maybe just write and see what happens.

That's always been my method, but my gut is telling me I might want to change that up some this time around. We shall see. Thanks for the feedback.

H.Brown
July 11th, 2017, 10:30 PM
No worries Terry. I'm intrigued let me know if you want a reader at any time as I'm interested to read it. Do you have a particular theme in mind?

Terry D
July 12th, 2017, 02:54 PM
No worries Terry. I'm intrigued let me know if you want a reader at any time as I'm interested to read it. Do you have a particular theme in mind?

I'll keep you offer in mind, although the actual writing is certainly a long way from being started. As for a theme, the one which seems to be hovering around my head like a hungry bug is; the conflict between the corruptibility of human nature vs. the resilience of the human spirit. But that's just a guess at this time.

Smith
July 30th, 2017, 04:15 AM
I'll keep you offer in mind, although the actual writing is certainly a long way from being started. As for a theme, the one which seems to be hovering around my head like a hungry bug is; the conflict between the corruptibility of human nature vs. the resilience of the human spirit. But that's just a guess at this time.

I was just reading a thread on another site about 'The Road'. Never read it myself although it sounds quite good. Anyway, it's funny you mention that possible theme, because one of the themes in 'The Road' is about those who maintain their humanity in the face of death, and those who become animals in order to survive.

My question to you then, I suppose, is what are you trying to say about "conflict between the corruptibility of human nature vs. the resilience of the human spirit"? (taking into consideration the fact that you're not sure that's *actually* your theme)

Smith
July 30th, 2017, 04:18 AM
If you don't know the answer then don't write a book about the end of the world. Write a book about love and death with the end of the world happening in the background.

Sorry for double-posting, but great post! This quoted bit left me with a question. How would (or could) making the setting an "end of the world scenario" benefit the love story?

Just to take a stab at it myself: I assume it would open the door to some sort of central message, like 'love will prevail against all odds'? Or of course the opposite, depending on the author's beliefs and what point they want to make.

EDIT: Just realized this could veer things off topic, so please feel free to PM me.

bdcharles
July 30th, 2017, 03:05 PM
With theme, I find it arises out of thoughts I may have on a certain subject but for whatever reason don't raise in real life. I have my characters have the conversations and dilemmas about the theme instead, while they go about their story goals.

Non Serviam
July 30th, 2017, 03:56 PM
Sorry for double-posting, but great post! This quoted bit left me with a question. How would (or could) making the setting an "end of the world scenario" benefit the love story?

Well, I think that (outside the romance genre) what makes an epic love story is acts of extravagant self-sacrifice. The end of the world scenario gives you so much opportunity for that.