Yesterday I posed a question – or several questions – around the theme of ‘to tell or not to tell’ and whether people have ‘a right to know’. As I’d hoped, it generated some interesting and thoughtful responses.
Themes took a while to emerge from early drafts of my debut novel, Singled Out. I know this isn’t unusual, that themes often take some time to show themselves. We know what kind of story we want to write, but it isn’t until the characters take hold of the action, that the themes offer themselves up. I held my breath and eventually they came out from the shadows.
One theme, and the reason for yesterday’s post is – yes, you guessed: To tell or not to tell.
Perversely (sorry about this) I can’t tell you much about the scenario, and I’m obviously not going to give away the plot. However, the views expressed in the comments on yesterday’s post reflected some of my own thought processes as I wrote Singled Out, and they inform the moral and values-driven dilemmas my protagonist faces as the story unfolds.
Is it right to be open and upfront, whatever the potential cost? Or is it ever better to withhold and leave someone in (blissful) ignorance? Rigid morality makes for a black or white choice, where there are in reality – as all the responses articulated – multiple shades of grey, and many considerations which interweave and serve to confuse the picture.
I just hope it makes for a compelling story. And maybe even an interesting set of back-of-the-book book club discussion topics.
If you’re writing a novel, how are you handling the issue of identifying theme(s)? Did you start with a theme and work your story up around it? Or did you, as I did, pile all the elements of your story – plot, characters, dilemmas, challenges and so on – into a sieve and keep on shaking it until the themes fell out?