Theme: A Novel’s Melody

Illustration provided by Billy Alexander and stock.xchng

Illustration provided by Billy Alexander and stock.xchng

As you may know, I finished a novel last year only to discover it fell short in the word count department. With the help of some lovely ladies in a small writers group I’m working to expand the elements that make up the whole.

One thing I’m working on is the themes in my novel. During the first few drafts I concentrated on grief and healing. There are others just below the surface that I didn’t fully develop. Upon reflection, it’s obvious I can expand those themes in ways I hadn’t considered.

In the November/December issue of Writer’s Digest, Elizabeth Sims wrote an article about themes that I found interesting and educational. She compares elements of a novel to a symphony and suggests theme is the melody.

The most compelling symphonies begin with a basic, uncluttered melody, which is then developed, repeated, explicated, obscured, revealed, torn to bits, resurrected.

The melody of my novel remained uncluttered from beginning to end. Theme was my main focus while writing and though the characters pointed me in directions I hadn’t considered, I restrained them from going too far off track. Moving forward I’ll let the harmonies soar. The characters will become instruments that blend and chase as they strengthen the underlying melody.

It’s been a learning experience and at times I’ve wanted to give up, feared I couldn’t salvage my first novel. The oft quoted Friedrich Nietzsche comes to mind and I truly believe, “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Writing a novel won’t kill me. More likely it will make my next effort stronger.

I’m currently planning my next novel and am conscious of the lessons I’ve learned (and continue to learn) from the first. It will be a while before I make book two my main focus. The first isn’t finished until I’ve made it the best I possibly can. I’ll continue to learn as I go and hope that lessons learned will make each new project better.

Sims, Elizabeth. “Write Better: Transform Your Novel Into A Symphony.” Writer’s Digest Nov/Dec. 2013: 32-35.
  • I usually don’t start a song/prose concerned with theme/melody. I start by trying to tell a story…It’s like creating a chord progression. Once the progression is solidified, the melody becomes clear….or maybe I just work ass backwards….A thought provoking piece, Missy. Thanks!!

  • I usually don’t start a song/prose concerned with theme/melody. I start by trying to tell a story…It’s like creating a chord progression. Once the progression is solidified, the melody becomes clear….or maybe I just work ass backwards….A thought provoking piece, Missy. Thanks!!

  • mooderino

    Interesting analogy. I don’t think you can really force a melody, it sort of comes to you, maybe it’s the same with theme. Hard to create but easy to recognise.

    mood

    • I don’t think you can force any kind of creativity, you have to let it roll over you like a melody.

  • mooderino

    Interesting analogy. I don’t think you can really force a melody, it sort of comes to you, maybe it’s the same with theme. Hard to create but easy to recognise.

    mood

    • I don’t think you can force any kind of creativity, you have to let it roll over you like a melody.

  • I love the analogy of theme to melody! And I’m happy to hear you’re making such progress. Good luck!