So, theme. We've talked a little bit about theme before, and we covered it in the Go Teen Writers book too. But I was looking through some old notes of mine, and I found some ideas that got me excited. I thought you might like to see them as well.
1. Life Lessons
When you're working on your characters and your plot, ask yourself what your character learns about life in the course of the story. If he learns a million things, it might be that your story is a little too theme heavy. Keep it simple. How? Try interviewing your character now that he's lived through the adventure. Ask him, "Why did you have to go through that? Why did you take that journey? Why did you allow that to happen to you? What did you learn? What he says might surprise you.
2. Flaws and Questions
No one's perfect. And your characters shouldn't be either. Give your main character a struggle, a flaw, or some question about life that he's hung up on. And through the course of the story, let him find an answer to that question or a way to deal with that one issue or flaw. Be careful, though. Simple, spoon-fed answers won't resonate with your readers. But a character who's looking for answers about life or trying to figure out a way to do life better is someone most everyone can relate to.
3. Plant it Early
Whatever it is that you want your character to learn or how you want him to change, have him say the opposite early on in the book. Let him declare to a friend that he will NEVER do such and such. And by the end of the book, oh, yes he will. This is a great way to work in a theme, or, during edits, to strengthen your theme. Here are some examples:
Dorothy starts out singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," wishing there was a wonderful place to life where there would never be any troubles. But at the end of the book she's saying the opposite, "There's no place like home."
In It's a Wonderful Life, George Bailey wants to shake the dust of this crummy old town off his feet, and he wants to see the world! But in the end, despite never having left Bedford Falls, he learns that he really does have a wonderful life.
In About a Boy, Will says that his life is like a TV show. He is the star of The Will Show. And The Will Show isn't an ensemble drama. Guests come and go, but he is the regular. It comes down to him and him alone. Yet, at the end of the movie he learns that no man is an island.
How about you? Can you pinpoint growth in your character's journey? Do you see a major change? Can you plant an opposite declaration early on?