1. twelveninetysix
    Offline

    twelveninetysix Member

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    72
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Wigan, UK

    Is this theme solid and/or clear enough?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by twelveninetysix, Jan 28, 2012.

    Empty faith & control as a theme?

    I removed the extract from this thread as I wanted critique more on the theme than the writing. Instead, I just want to ask if you think this is a strong theme for a novel.

    Basically, the novel is about a flawed but relatable protagonist who has to struggle with the idea of a manipulative and corrupt God. However, when he finally confronts God, he sees that in his crusade for answers, he was no better, and that indeed, control is the most intoxicating thing that there is, in fact the only thing that there is. He thinks of all the people who he had thought he was trying to free, and sees that actually need their faith to keep them going, empty though it is.

    Do you think this is enough of a premise for a book?
     
  2. UrbanBanshee
    Offline

    UrbanBanshee Member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2012
    Messages:
    70
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Seattle
    It's a fine starting point. I like looking to Greek or Roman mythology for this sort of thing. Their gods were flawed and could be described as awful and selfish due to their actions.

    The only concern I'd have if I picked up a book with this premise is if it does nothing but bash religion or a specific religion. I'd recomend distancing the story from the "real world" so you could present a clearer view of your theme.

    Last, though a theme can be a great way to keep your story together, it is the characters and the writing that will make or break the story. Great ideas arent in short supply, but great stories are.
     
  3. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Any premise can be turned into a book. Your question is meaningless.

    It depends on what you do with developing your premise into a story, how you develop your characters, etc.

    You could turn a trip to the post office to pick up a registered letter into a book. But if you have to ask for approval on the idea, you probably won't have the drive and imagination to do anything with it.
     
  4. twelveninetysix
    Offline

    twelveninetysix Member

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    72
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Wigan, UK
    I'm not too worried about it bashing religion too much. Currently I'm using a kind of stereotypical Christian God, but only for convenience. And in the end, the message is that whether God exists or not (I'm an atheist), what really matters is what faith can help people to do. I might rework it to focus more on that aspect than on the aspect of control, although it's still something I'd like to write about. If you'd like me to elaborate further I can post the ~450 word ending I wrote to try and straighten out the theme in my own mind.

    I'm confident in my characters and my ability to develop them and write them well, however my plot still needs a little more fleshing out, I feel. This is largely because the message was what came to me first and this is what I developed to get that across.

    Previously the idea consisted of God having fabricated some heinous crime and planting it in the protagonists memory, effectively for "a bit of a laugh". He is filled with remorse and leaves his whole life behind, eventually starting a new one, alone, in a new, remote location. Eventually, however, his past catches him up, possibly in the form of a a person who was present at the scene of his (imagined) crime. Eventually, the protagonist is driven to suicide by the guilt and it is then that he meets God and learns about the true nature of the world.

    Writing that out it strikes me as exceptionally weak. I still like the theme but I can't help but wonder whether it would be better split into two. The portion about control and power seems like it is also made for a dystopian, "orwellian" setting, whilst the portion on hope might work well if exemplified by a made-up religion, a la Kurt Vonegut's "Bokononism".

    Or, the plots might work well together in some sort of pseudo-religious sci-fi setting, for example, where aliens or time-travellers masquerade as gods. This is probably a less offensive idea too, and whilst I'm not a fan of censoring books, it would get the point across just as well.
     
  5. joanna
    Offline

    joanna Active Member

    Joined:
    May 25, 2010
    Messages:
    429
    Likes Received:
    12
    Location:
    Boston
    The fact you're asking leads me to wonder: what do you think it's missing? I think the answer to this question will help you begin to write your story.

    What it looks like you've got here is the basis of the storyline, which is fine. A theme in literature is more along the lines of a rendering or view of life and how we behave; it's a central concept of a story. Your theme might be something like man's struggle with faith and his belief in God. I don't know. Most authors don't start with a theme; they start with an idea, write the story, and whatever theme exists will emerge.
     
  6. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    The first part is very reminiscent of what happened to Hercules, when Hera possessed him and made him murder his family, and he then had to atone for the crime he didn't understand how he could have ever committed. In the end, only suicide liberated him from Hera's rage.

    I think that, if you are going to write about God, you should write about God, without any consideration what some people might find offensive. You are only telling the story. Watering down your idea or changing the setting to "accommodate" is likely to damage your narrative.
    So far, your idea could be made into an awesome book, but it needs to be written really well, with authenticity, amazingly well developed characters and it has to be relevant. So, best of luck with writing it :)
     
  7. twelveninetysix
    Offline

    twelveninetysix Member

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    72
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Wigan, UK
    I guess what I'm worried about is not so much the theme/message/whatever, but that because of it not a lot actually happens. I mean, obviously I would work hard to develop the currently slightly bland protagonist into a fully nuanced human being, and the same for the God. But, although the character undergoes a huge change, not many tangible events occur. It makes it slightly hard to convince myself that it could be a fully fledged story.
     
  8. joanna
    Offline

    joanna Active Member

    Joined:
    May 25, 2010
    Messages:
    429
    Likes Received:
    12
    Location:
    Boston
    If you think more has to happen, then maybe it does; but only if more of a plot would enhance the story and further entertain the reader. I'd start writing and see if the story can stand on its own, be entertaining without a lot of action.

    Conflict, tension, moving towards some goal; these are often the driving forces of the novel. But some novels do this quietly, with subtlety. Some novels are more cerebral. What I find doesn't work for subtle, cerebral novels is preaching, or long periods where the character sits and thinks; he should at the very least be doing something while he thinks, even if it's tending to an unruly garden or trying to pick a piece of popcorn from his teeth.

    So I'd think about your motivation for writing this and what sorts of tension or conflicts will arise for your characters. The book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard is a thinking person's novel, without lots of action, like yours could be; the characters are creatures, the tension comes from nature itself.
     
  9. jc.
    Offline

    jc. Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2012
    Messages:
    251
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Hawaii
    I definitely think the concept and message is interesting, but I agree with the others. Ask yourself what you think is missing. I'm confident though that you can pull this off. You just need to flesh out the story itself.
     
  10. twelveninetysix
    Offline

    twelveninetysix Member

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    72
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Wigan, UK
    I think that fleshing out the plot and characters more would help me a lot. If it still feels empty then, then maybe it's not right, but it's possible that it's lack of planning that's making me doubt. I'll come back later when I've thought some more on it.
     
  11. jc.
    Offline

    jc. Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2012
    Messages:
    251
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Hawaii
    When I run into that problem I usually grab a sheet of paper and pen and start writing down a bunch of questions that I need to answer. Questions like the who, what, why, where, when, how. I start from the very beginning and keep asking questions until I've forced myself to answer each and every one. And if I can't answer the questions, I find out why and go from there.

    This helps me get a more solid feel and visualization of what I'm actually going to be writing. Another brainstorming method I do is the "connect the dots" exercise where I write a bunch of words/names/ideas down that I know I want somewhere in my story eventually and I start drawing lines connecting my ideas in a somewhat chronological order.

    Idk, we all have our own methods that work for us. What it sounds like to me is that you just need to sit down and really organize/analyze your writing until you can fill in whatever that missing blank is.
     
  12. twelveninetysix
    Offline

    twelveninetysix Member

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    72
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Wigan, UK
    Wow, the asking questions method is so unbelievably useful! Already my story is growing, the blanks are filling, and I've only done two pages of questions so far. The plot is still somewhat on the basic side but it is simple because it does not need to be complex, not because it should be but isn't. The characters are feeling more complete, and I'm starting to find parallels and links everywhere I look. I started to write about some examples but I got carried away and ended up writing a page or so of rambling. I can feel my ideas starting to come together into one coherent entity that says quite a lot about how I see the world. Can you tell I'm getting excited yet? ;) I'd love to share all these thoughts and plans and ideas now, but I fear that the disorganized nature of them would somehow ruin them for whatever came after, so I'll leave it.

    Relatively, this will be a short book. But it will be exactly as long as it needs to be. And besides, it's better to get your ideas across and leave them fresh in people's minds, than to bore them to the point that they are no longer interesting.
     
  13. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    no one can tell you if this or that will work till it's finished... so stop wasting time asking questions that can't be answered at this point and just write the thing!...
     

Share This Page