July 11, 2013

An Inglorious Burden

pinterest: tempus regina
After this week's semi-random detour into the realm of climactic scenes and the ideal story, I am returning to the Tempus Regina Curiosity series.  The story's first draft is nearly finished - the process took much less time, all in all, than I was anticipating.  I have only a few pages left to wrap up, a couple of threads to tie into proper bows and perhaps some polka-dotted paper to put on the package, and then I'll type THE END.

Except that I never do type THE END.  Somehow it seems very silly and redundant.  "Well, I can see that it's the end, you idiot.  And if you feel it necessary to inform me, you had much better go back and try again."

At any rate, on to today's question, which was asked outright by Sarah Ellen and Joy and was rather implied by Writer's question as well.

what is the theme you want to convey in your book?
[sarah ellen]

what is the greatest theme or purpose that so far prevails in tempus regina?

where does the story begin and how will the character's, well, character, change over the course of the story?

I don't believe I have ever started out a novel knowing, from page one or sometimes even from page one hundred and three, what the final driving theme was going to be.  I know some people do, and I confess it baffles me.  I think if I were to try it I would tend toward heavy-handedness, since the framework of the story would have to be fit within the confines of the writer's overarching purpose, rather than the purpose growing out organically from the framework.  This, then, to say that as I write I do not have a single primary theme which I want to convey - a single primary theme I feel readers must get, and without which the book will have failed.  I'm just, well, writing a book!

However, if the book is good, themes will inevitably show.  They're what make the story cohesive and what give it emotive power, and without them your plot lacks spirit.  Throughout the writing process of Tempus Regina, as was the case with The White Sail's Shaking -  No, I take back my previous statement: I think the theme of Wordcrafter might have been present from day one.  But it has always been a different kind of story, so it doesn't count.  At any rate, throughout the process of writing my other novels, I've been able to watch the themes develop almost on their own.  Certain ones are recurring, and they include themes Sarah mentioned in her comment: good versus evil (perhaps the most fundamental of all); love; friendship; sacrifice. 

All of these are present in Tempus Regina, but others have revealed themselves.  This novel deals with good and evil, but more particularly with the inner struggle of "the Spirit against the flesh," of the new man versus the old.  It deals with the desperate wickedness of the heart, and the sin that remains post-regeneration.  All of which, I might add, is significantly messier than dealing with any given villain.  The protagonist and antagonist in a single body is a troublesome dichotomy, and coming face to face with it in the character of Regina has been difficult.

There is another theme as well, though, which is perhaps even less pleasant, and that is the theme of duty.  We are not, I think, particularly fond of either the word or the concept.  It gets a very bum rap.  As soon as the subject is broached, out come the verses about God loving a cheerful giver and the joy of the Lord and a thankful spirit and all those very true, very good things.  All that we do should indeed be done out of love to God and to our neighbor - but I don't think we're foolish enough to make out that it is.  And that is when duty enters the equation: those times when it seems as though our whole soul is opposed to what we know to be right and we've got to force ourselves into it anyhow, praying (hopefully) that God would be gracious enough to grant us the proper love, making our sacrifice acceptable to Himself.

This latter theme is the one that most directly affects Regina, the one in which she is most challenged, and for myself it has been the greatest one of Tempus Regina.  Perhaps, however, different perspectives will mine different themes.  I hope so.  I am not a terribly subjective, "whatever it means to you" person, but there are really so many facets of the story that in this case it is very nearly true.

When you read the book, you will have to tell me.


  1. Bravo, excellent answer :) Good to hear your thoughts on what is conveyed throughout your story, and yet I agree on your process.
    I never sit down while beginning a book and say, "Okay, what is my theme? What am I going to press as the point of this book?" I prefer to have an idea of what I want for my book in the beginning, and then as I write, let everything unfold and even show me what the story is trying to tell. Sometimes I discover a theme I didn't realize was coming, because though there are times when a theme is prevalent, there are underlying messages that aren't so "in your face." I think it helps to make the story more real, and it's fun to see what readers pick up by themselves.

    1. Honestly, I typically have so few concrete ideas as I start a story, I couldn't for the life of me pull together a theme! But, like you, I thoroughly enjoy watching them come to light - watching them pulling the story together, as it were. I am always a little nervous at the thought of readers "picking up" themes: what if they pick up the wrong ones? What if they think I'm saying something I don't mean at all? But that is an occupational hazard, and I suppose one of the goals in writing is to speak clearly enough that those reactions are few and far between.

    2. Going through and reassuring what you really want to be said as far as themes go is a good idea when the revisions come, I think. However, everyone interprets a story differently and *as long* as *you* are confident in the fact that you're clear in what you've written, I don't think you should worry about them picking up the wrong themes. Yes, there are times to let yourself think from the readers perspective to make sure you're being understood, but sometimes those hidden themes are something that we can even aim for to hopefully broaden our reader's imaginations. ...I might've gotten off track there ;)

  2. Replies
    1. And that is exactly the reaction I love hearing!

  3. Okay. (: I'll have to read it... as soon as it comes out!

  4. Aha, now I'm understanding! I think the themes were very helpful in putting a hazy thing out there in my head that represents Tempus Regina, something that was previously no more than a shapeless blob. I don't usually think about the themes of my writing until after someone has asked me, which is pretty tricky considering by society's rules I should answer straight away, instead of thinking for a good minute. ;)

    But once I have the themes down, it helps me write perhaps more cohesively.

    1. As the author, I think it's interesting - and perhaps baffling - to realize that Tempus Regina really is little more than a shapeless blob to Scribbles' readers. I'm glad this question was asked, since it helps bring coherence to the overall story idea. It's helped me, at any rate. ...Which is good, because I'll be needing a good grasp of the themes as I start into the edits and queries.

  5. As Bree said, we are starting to see the light ^_^. I love the themes of Tempus Regina, Abigail; it sounds so good. Especially the one: 'This novel deals with good and evil, but more particularly with the inner struggle of "the Spirit against the flesh," of the new man versus the old. It deals with the desperate wickedness of the heart, and the sin that remains post-regeneration. Three cheers for tackling this theme! I think it has little press, but yet Christians struggle with it constantly, some without fully understanding. *hugs* I am so excited!

    Actually, with The Crown of Life it was a long journey before I finally discovered the theme - and even then, I found that in fact there were many all woven into the tale I could not dissect it easily. Perhaps because A Love that Never Fails started out as a short-story, which generally needs to have a more obvious theme, this novel of mine has from its premise and start, already got this theme evident. However, I really do not want to over-write it or 'push it' so to speak... in a way, I am trying to take a step back now and see the story from a new light as more of a novel, a tale, than really a themed-short story telling a message. I appreciated this post a lot, because it reminded me not to overdue working or showing my themes in my story. It really must come naturally... Thanks a billion, Abigail dear <3

    On that note, I know you'll be starting to edit Tempus Regina and all that, so maybe it is a bit early to wonder... but I wonder still what new tale you will undertake to pen.

    1. Short stories do lend themselves to clearer themes. Perhaps that's why I struggle with them! Hopefully by viewing it as a whole, you can find a good way to weave those threads into a longer story. On the bright side, though, having the theme already in mind, you don't have to worry about bumping around aimlessly in the dark early chapters looking for a point in all the madness!

      Having finished Tempus Regina, I'm now taking a brief break before I dive into edits. I think that will engage me for a while, and I also expect my writing time to take a sharp cut when I begin college next month - so I haven't decided what exactly I'm doing after this! There will be querying and brain-storming: I know that. I don't talk much about story ideas during that period, because talking tends to kill inspiration. Hopefully Scribbles won't dry up in the interim!


meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
find me elsewhere
take my button


Follow by Email

published writings

The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
finished writings

Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
currently writing

Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

Bookmarks In...

Search This Blog