Don’t be afraid to slap your readers in the face with your theme

Slap I finished critiquing a fellow writer’s work in progress recently and one thing that struck me was that she needed to emphasize her theme more.

In short, she needed to slap her readers in the face with it. I knew what her theme was – we had discussed the core of what she was writing about many times – and it definitely came across in her ending, but did it come across strongly or clearly enough? I didn’t think so.

Part of my recommendation was that she introduce more conflict, but another big part (I felt) was she needed to bring her theme home more directly. The stretch run needed more strength, more oomph.

I spoke with her on this subject out of personal experience. The first book I completed had a theme that was clear in my own mind, but I now realize I probably tried to be too subtle in my ending and in how I ultimately communicated that theme to my readers.

I was trying to avoid cliches and heavy-handedness. And I’m still NOT advocating these things. But in that attempt at subtlety, I think I ended up skirting around my theme in such a way that I now wonder how well it came across at all.

I’m watching Season Two of Six Feet Under, and there have been a few episodes where I have felt much the same way. The show is very well written, but sometimes I have the feeling the writers are being a little too subtle with what they are trying to say. Of course, the undertone is there, but there have been several points where I wanted more, wanted the loop to be closed more tautly.

I wanted them to slap me in the face with what they were trying to say.

If your reader is going to go on a three or four hundred page journey with you, or if your viewer is going to spend hours watching, they should leave with a clear idea of what you were trying to say. Make sure you find a way to impart it.

Unless you do this with a real heavy-hand, it probably won’t come across as obvious as you’re afraid it might. I know that when I get to the ending of my current work in progress, I’m going to be keeping this thought in mind, and hopefully I’ll end it with a strong idea for the readers of just exactly what it was I was trying to say.

(Of course, I don’t recommend slapping your readers too often or too many times…)

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This week’s podcasts updates:

First, we had a new podcast from The Velvet Podcast. These guys don’t post new podcasts very often, which is why they haven’t made my podcast list to the left, but when they do, they’re usually very entertaining and offer great content. This week’s entry was no exception, a great listen on editing:

Hopefully the guys start to post more and if they do, I will include them in my regular updates. I particularly like their roundtable approach. It’s great to get multiple opinions all at once, points and counterpoints.

Writing Excuses

I Should Be Writing

Books on the Nightstand

Reading and Writing Podcast

Adventures in SciFi Publishing

The Writing Show

Write for Your Life

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