29 August 2013


After finishing a novel recently I was delighted to find additional material at the end of the book in which the author wrote about his initial idea for the novel, and what had inspired him with the characters and plot.

As a reader I'm fascinated by these insights. I'm not sure whether it's because I'm a writer, or just nosy.

As a writer I'm also fascinated by the things that people see in my writing - some intentional and some that truly amaze me, as I'd never thought of them.

Sometimes I finish a book, put it down and don’t think much more about it, but other times the characters remain with me for longer and I think about character choices and actions.

Writers are often urged to consider the underlying theme in their work. To me this suggests we look for the theme once we’ve finished writing. I think this is the appropriate time, as writing with a theme in mind can lead to preachy writing or overdoing the emphasis. Themes need a light touch, rather like sprinkling fairy dust! Better that some readers miss it than being trampled underfoot by the lecture.

When I first started writing Lives Interrupted, I began with the idea of how people would deal with the aftermath and consequences of being involved in a major catastrophe that changed their lives. It was only while reading and editing a draft version of the novel that I saw the theme - the strength of friendship. This was shown in the stories of Rosa and Ellie, and Kate and Francine. It was also echoed in a plot line I removed in an early version. 

If you’ve read Lives Interrupted you may well have seen other themes and not noticed this one. It doesn’t really matter. Reading is a very individual activity. When I’ve discussed books or films with friends I often find that we have very different ideas of the theme, or alternatively the plot was so gripping we couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to even think about theme. We read to be entertained, and sometimes we don’t need to analyse what the author really meant. What do you think?

No comments:

Post a Comment