Friday, January 28, 2011

Reaching Out Through Themes

I'm often asked why I want to be a writer, especially when I describe the general publishing business to outsiders. I get this "Is it really worth it?" look, along with the question. There's many possible answers to it, but there is one that, for me, stands out the most.

I hope that someday, my story will touch someone. I hope it will reach a complete stranger, someone I've never met and never will, and that after reading my book, this person won't be the same.

Some novels change our lives. The Lord of the Rings, for example, made me a hardcore fantasy fan. But beyond that, I believe there are novels that change who we are.

 To me, this is Tigana, from Guy Gavriel Kay.

Last weekend I posted about the importance of themes. This week, I had to do a short presentation on a novel or a movie I liked. As I prepared it, it hit me how much I cared for the message and the themes in Tigana.

In (short), Tigana is the story of a small group's fight to bring back their province, Tigana, in the memory of the residents of the Palm after a powerful sorcerer wiped it out from everyone's mind.

This novel is all about remembering something. It speaks of the importance of words and history in one's cultural identity -- all of which, with Quebec's constant fight for French's preservation, resonate deep within me.

Of course I loved every other aspect of the novel - the characters, the voice, the setting, the incredible dialogs... Everything (though I hear some find it a bit of a slow start). But they aren't the reason Tigana is my all-time favourite (in fact I think The Lions of Al-Rassan, another of Kay's great novel, is better at character and pace). Tigana touched me because of its themes, which I care deeply about.

And if I can reach another person this way, all the hard work will be worth it.


  1. I think about this a lot. I want my stories to mean something to someone, but most of the time I get discouraged because when I write the first draft, it seems to be all about the plot and characters and it's hard to find a coherent theme. Something to definitely think about during revisions! What do I want my readers to come away with?
    Good post!

  2. That is true. I think most of us writers are looking to touch other people through our words...


  3. I have a similar feeling. I want someone else out there to read my book and recognize that missing element that was the reason I wrote it in the first place.

    I have had Tigana on my to read list for a long time. I have so many books waiting to be read...

  4. Amber: If you're having trouble finding the theme, you can look closely at what your characters believe in. That's often where I find mine.

    Ted: Oh, I know the Big-TBR-pile feeling. Make sure you get to Tigana at some point, though! It's well worth the time. :)